YOG champ Renato Paratore savours "special" Olympic experience

Italian Paratore was called up as a late replacement for injured major winner Francesco Molinari, competing at Tokyo 2020 seven years after his Nanjing gold.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Since winning gold at 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Italian golfer Renato Paratore is now a force to be reckoned with on the European Tour.

Despite clinching his second European Tour title at last year's British Masters, Paratore initially missed out on qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

But when 2018 Open champion Francesco Molinari was ruled out with a back injury, he was called up as a late replacement and gladly accepted his opportunity.

The 24-year-old finished tied for 27th on a very respectable nine-under-par, nine shots behind gold medallist Xander Schauffele.

Afterwards, Paratore told Olympics.com about his experiences at the Games, and relived his YOG Nanjing 2014 triumph.

Q: What does it mean for you to compete in the Olympic Games?

Renato Paratore: Every time I compete for Italy is something special. When I was an amateur, I was able to play a lot of events for my country and it was so cool. As a professional, you don’t get a chance to represent your country very often.

I missed selection for Rio, so when they told me I was in for Tokyo I was very happy. It’s a special atmosphere here, seeing all the best athletes in the world from every sport. To see them and how they train is very cool.

Q: How did you feel when you heard that you would be replacing Francesco Molinari in the team at the last minute?

RP: I heard the news just one week before. I was really happy when they called. Just to be here is an achievement. To win a medal was the goal. It wasn't not easy as the field is very good, but I gave it 100 per cent.

Q: How does playing in the Olympic Games compare to other tournaments?

RP: I think I take every tournament with the same spirit, and we obviously play a lot, but this one is more special. When you have something that you only play every four years, it’s going to be more special and so you want to play well here.

We play a lot of good, important tournaments but, of course, coming here you know you are going to be playing for your country. For me, this is something apart from the major championships that we play because this is the Olympic Games. The history behind it is something crazy and it is very different for us. You’re playing for your country; you see how the other athletes sacrifice so much for four years for a medal; it’s an exciting feeling to be here. 

Q: Have you been following what the other Italian athletes have been doing?

RP: Of course. I have a few friends who are also competing here in other sports; people I met in Nanjing. It’s good to see them compete for a medal and also to watch other sports that I like.

Q: You were the first ever Youth Olympic Games golf champion in Nanjing in 2014. How do you look back on your experiences at that event?

RP: I was really fortunate to have that experience and win the gold medal. Now I appreciate the feeling of being on the podium because I was just 17 years old at the time, and I didn’t expect the emotions I felt when I stood there, and they played the Italian anthem. It’s something I would like to feel again. Competing here in Tokyo I had the chance, and I still have that dream.

Renato Paratore Nanjing 2014
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

Q: Have your experiences in Nanjing helped you in your career since then?

RP: It was a really good experience to play for a medal, and to be on the podium with the Italian anthem. That gave me a really good feeling in my body, I can’t explain. Every time you win, it gives you more and more confidence.

That year I was playing well, and then I qualified for the European Tour. The Youth Olympics, of course, helped me for my career to start.

Q: What were your able to take from your YOG experience?

RP: The goal from there was to play with the professionals. Once I was playing there, I experienced what it would be like to play in the Olympics and also to be at the [Olympic] Village. That made me realise how good it is to be a professional; before the Youth Olympics I never got to experience that.

I remember playing with Viktor Hovland (NOR) who I’ve seen again here. It’s good to see the development of other players and friends as well.

Q: Have you reminded Viktor that you beat him to the gold medal?

No [laughs]! But maybe I should. He’s going to remember for sure the old times when we were amateurs; it’s fun to look back. They are good memories.