Aged 20 and hailing from Jordan Hill in Glasgow, Jax Thoirs is 6ft 6in, 14st and has gone from strength to strength since he started Pole Vaulting at the age of 14.
With personal bests achieved every year so far, Jax has repeatedly bettered the Scottish record over the past 12 months and at the 2013 Scottish National Championships last weekend he claimed the highest jump ever by a Scottish man on Scottish soil. In fact, Jax left the competition undefeated by human, but was unfortunately beaten by the elements, as the wind put a stop to proceedings and his hopes of a new Scottish record.
Jax's tall and sturdy frame is arguably what makes him such a threat when entering any major competition; but it is this same frame that in his early teens caused him to quit his main sport. "I was actually a Scottish national gymnast when I was younger, but then I got too tall for the sport. I'm lucky that when you are off the ground, Pole Vaulting actually translates perfectly with Gymnastics, so it worked out pretty well for me."
Discovering Pole Vaulting at a come and try session in the Kelvin Hall, Jax loved the experience of flying through the air. "At that session, I jumped pretty high for my age and since then I have been jumping higher and higher every year. It is a pretty awesome feeling."
Now based out in the American North West in Seattle, Jax is enrolled at the University of Washington, nicknamed the Huskies, on a full-ride four year athletics scholarship. He has just successfully completed his first year and although he has no idea what subject he would like to qualify in, Jax is sure he is in the right place:
"Ever since I was very young I knew that Washington had a great coach who coached Brad Walker, the American number two right now and has jumped six metres. Brad is built very similarly to me, so I knew that moving out there would be the best thing. It is the perfect balance between training and studying and of course Seattle is really nice and I regularly get to compete in California which is even nicer."
The Pacific Atlantic Conference hosts twelve of the most athletically competitive American universities and is aptly named, the PAC12. Jax has spent the past year matching up against the best the PAC12 has to offer and says: "There is a couple of 5.50m guys in the PAC12 and it is great to compete week in week out against that caliber of opponent and you can see the results. But at the Commonwealth Games, the guys will be jumping even higher."
However, living the high-life, in every sense out in America is not plain sailing for Jax. "The American system can be difficult, because you don't really stop between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Most people in the UK schedule a training block in between the two to recover, a little gym work and generally a recuperation period for the next part of the year. But we go straight through January to June, so I will have to pace myself. By the time I get to Glasgow 2014, I need to be in best shape possible because it is all about that right now."
Early signs of making that transatlantic transition are positive and Jax expects to walk away from Glasgow 2014 baring a medal: "Of course I am aiming to win, but I would have to jump really well for that, but it is a possibility. I do fully expect a medal of one colour or another though."
Whether it is, Gymnastics to Pole Vaulting, Jordan Hill Secondary School to the University of Washington, Jax has experienced transition in his life. However, the toughest transition of taking off and landing without touching that bar in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games will be made all the easier with his hometown crowd behind him.
Photo Credit: Mark Shearman