The Lynsey Sharp-Andy Butchart romance may have dominated the headlines at this week’s announcement of Scotland’s athletics team for April’s Commonwealth Games but it was pole vaulter Jax Thoirs who had a ring to show off.
The 24-year-old from Glasgow won the prestigious NCAA indoor title in 2016 when he was studying at the University of Washington in Seattle and recently received the imposing chunk of jewellery, which is a tradition for national champions in American sport.
“Normally people don’t wear them but I just thought I’ll be a douche and just do it,” he said. “I got it in the post a couple of weeks ago so I’m going to sport it for a couple of months.
“People have taken notice of it. It’s pretty obvious. I think they look at it and think I won the SuperBowl or something!”
The Victoria Park City of Glasgow AC man is back in Scotland studying psychology at the University of Caledonia after doing sociology alongside his athletics in Seattle and is back in love with the sport after falling into a bit of a slump around the time of the Rio Olympics.
The Scottish record holder had a fourth-place finish at the Glasgow 2014 Games and is now looking to go one better at the Gold Coast in a few months’ time.
He was just edged out of the British title in Birmingham during the summer in a jump-off with England’s Luke Cutts, but both were outside the GB qualifying standard of 5.70m and didn’t take part in the London world championships. The Scot’s outdoor personal best is 5.65m.
The Commonwealths provide an opportunity for Thoirs to strut his stuff on the big stage again and his philosophy has been to get back to what attracted him to the event in the first place – the sheer fun of it.
“To be honest I wasn’t very motivated around the time of Rio,” he explained. “So part of me sees it as a blessing in disguise. I think if I’d gone to Rio I might have just quit after it.
“So not going to Rio has given me time to find the love for the sport again and I feel like I’m really enjoying it now.
“I just think when you’re doing something for that long, since you were 14 years old, you’re going to have dips in motivation. I think it was just a natural thing. I started realising I’m only doing this because I like pole vaulting and not for any reason.
“Not to try and make a living out of it, and once I started thinking like that again I feel like I’m just enjoying it and I’m not worried about what happens or the consequences anymore.
“Definitely, the closer you get to those heights to get the funding and the sponsorship thoughts about that start creeping into your head. You start not concentrating on why you started pole vault in the first place. I’ve gone back to the point where anything is a bonus.
“I enjoy pole vaulting, I don’t care if I get anything else out of it other than just pole vaults. I think that’s the best mindset to have.”
Thoirs started his sporting life as a gymnast but his burgeoning height, which has reached 6ft 5in, had him looking for something new to try.
“It just feels good. I think I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so it’s about going high up in the air. I get a thrill out of it,” he said.
“The higher you go the more of the thrill it is. The thrill keeps building and building. I think you can tell about halfway through the run up whether it’s going to be good.
You just feel like you’re in the right place. Definitely when you come off the ground you know whether it’s bad or good. I think it’s right as you take off. If it feels clean you don’t really feel anything. It just flows.
“If it flows then you know it’s going to be good and if it doesn’t flow it’s pretty much game over.”
That fourth placing at Hampden back in 2014 proves that a medal in Australia is not beyond the realms of possibility, but Thoirs admits it came so early in his career that he didn’t quite appreciate how close he had come to the podium.
“To be honest at the time I wasn’t too bothered. I loved the experience,” he recalled.
“I got a real surge of energy from competing in front of the crowd. That made me forget the fact I’d just finished in the worst position I could have come.
“I wasn’t thinking it at the time, but now I think back and wish I could have finished at least one place higher.
“I want to get some redemption next year.”