Born in London Borough of Lewisham in 1966, John Regis was a specialist 200-metre sprinter who won individual gold medals at that distance at the 1989 World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary and the 1990 European Championships in Split, Croatia. He also won a team gold medal in the 4 x 400 metres relay at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
On the global stage, Regis recorded his arguably his best individual performance at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. In his qualifying heat, Regis finished second to Frenchman Jean-Charles Trouabal in a time of 20.67 seconds, in his quarter-final he finished second to American Carl Lewis in a time of 20.39 seconds and in his semi-final he finished third to another American, Michael Marsh, and the eventual gold medallist, Namibian Frankie Fredericks, in a time of 20.16 seconds.
In the final, on August 20, 1993, Regis beat Trouabal, Marsh and Lewis and set a new British record, 19.94 seconds, as he finished in silver medal position behind Fredericks. Nearly a year later, on July 31, 1994, he lowered his own British record, setting a mark of 19.87 seconds in the rarified air of Sestriere, Italy, which still stands.
However, for years after he was forced to retire from athletics, due to a hamstring injury, in July, 2000, Regis was reportedly haunted by his execution of the Stuttgart race. Reflecting on his performance, he said,’Second is first loser. You always want to win and you train to win’, adding, ‘The public appreciate what they perceive as great performances. But what, in their eyes, may be a great performance you know to be only a reasonable one.’