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An old head on young shoulders

SHE is still only 19 and has the demeanour of one who is even younger in many ways but Amy Regan will be one of the senior figures in the Scottish gymnastics team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Amy Regan's selection for Delhi four years ago gives her a much better medal chance
Amy Regan's selection for Delhi four years ago gives her a much better medal chance

Having competed in Delhi four years ago - surprising herself by reaching the final and just missing out on a medal with her floor routine - Regan now believes making that journey was invaluable.

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"Delhi was a great experience as I was so young and at 15 even to get into the final was a fantastic achievement and a bonus," says the teenager who hails from Giffnock.

Such was her excitement at simply being involved and being lifted by the environment to perform well beyond expectations that it was only in hindsight that Regan realised what might have been, adding: "To come fourth was even better . . . but then looking back I realised that with an extra point I could have got a bronze medal."

Adjustments have duly been made to her routine and also to her expectations. "We have consolidated my routine to make it even stronger. I have bigger tumbles and I've been working on minimising all the deductions and fingers crossed I can go one better if not two this time," says Regan.

All of which only emphasises the value of having been included in the team when she was not seen as a medal contender four years ago since she might otherwise be just another wide-eyed youngster confronting the unknown.

"Delhi gave me the confidence and experience to prepare for these Games," says Regan, who was among 10 artistic gymnasts who joined the Scottish squad last week. "I had never done a multi-sport event; I had never really done anything on this scale with all the TV cameras and press wanting to speak and living in a village with loads of different athletes.

"What I have learned from Delhi has been amazing and it has really helped me with my preparation this time around. Because I was so young it was just a case of seeing how you do and if you reach a final, fantastic. If you don't, you don't; it's more experience. Whereas this time I'm looking to get into the floor final, the vault final, the all-around final and try to push for a medal."

She has been aware of just how achievable that is since her earliest memory of the Commonwealth Games. She was first inspired to take the sport seriously watching fellow Scot Steve Frew win Commonwealth gold at Manchester 12 years ago.

"It was amazing to see someone from Scotland could actually win a medal at the Commonwealth Games," says Regan.

That is a powerful message in itself and Regan is now ready to try to encourage others to understand what they might do by playing a senior role this time around in encouraging younger team-mates to take everything they can from the opportunity of competing in such an adrenaline generating environment.

"One of the gymnastics girls is the same age as I was in Delhi so I will try and give her some advice about how to handle the pressure of the media and basically just calm them down," says this most youthful of old-stagers. "I want to tell them all the stuff that we learned about being in the village and being part of the Commonwealth Games."

Nor is it only athletes who should learn from that experience. Coaches and administrators need to understand fully the scale of the opportunity to build for the future.

Setting minimum requirements in terms of team members' potential to win medals and reach finals this time around may have been the priority but, as Scottish sport looks to build on hosting this Games, Regan's example perfectly demonstrates the need to look to the future, giving up-and-coming talent the chance to surprise themselves and others.

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