Australian high jumper Brandon Starc has enjoyed a fabulous breakthrough season, clearing 2.36m to climb to equal third on this year’s world list. The 24-year-old looks back on a challenging 2017 campaign for his low moment and the sweet success he enjoyed on home ground at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for his high moment.
My biggest low came in 2017 after I was forced to call a premature end to my season. Rewinding back to 2016 and the countdown to the Rio Olympic Games, I had a bone spur issue in my left ankle. I competed in Rio (Starc finished 15th in the final) but I decided to undergo ankle surgery in September of that year.
It was a long road back. We took the rehab gradually and I recall posting an Instagram video about seven months after the surgery, just after I had my first good high jump session back.
I returned to competition in Japan in May 2017 and jumped a best of 2.25m that season before I started to feel pain in my shin.
I cleared 2.15m for ninth in Viersen, Germany in July but shortly after that competition, because we were concerned about the shin injury, we called an end to the season. It was a very disappointing for me because I knew I would not be competing at the World Championships in London, which was the first senior team I’d missed out on since 2013.
I was fortunate that I was given the all clear after a scan on the shin and I could step up my preparations for the next big challenge, which was competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
I was obviously highly motivated to compete at a home Commonwealth Games. Although we didn’t change too much in training, the biggest difference for me in 2018 compared to past seasons is I had a greater belief.
As a younger jumper, I never really believed I belonged at the very top of the high jumping world. I had a couple of good jumps here and there, but it was that extra belief which got me over the line in Gold Coast.
Gaining more belief happened gradually. My brother (Mitchell, the Australian cricketer) often tells me to back myself. My girlfriend, Laura, who is also a huge supporter, also helped kick-start that belief.
I knew was in good shape leading into the domestic season and I backed myself to perform well in Gold Coast.
The atmosphere in the Carrara Stadium in Gold Coast helped enormously. It felt like the whole stadium was clapping and supporting me over the bar. It was by far the best experience I’ve had in a competition. I’ve watched the (Commonwealth Games) video countless times since and it still gives me goose bumps.
To win the gold and to have my family there to share it with in the stands was special because they rarely get to see me compete in such a high calibre competition. When I cleared 2.32m at the first attempt, I just couldn’t control my emotions.
To win gold in Gold Coast means so much not only to me but all the people I’ve worked with like my coach for the past nine years, Alex Stewart. I have made a lot of choices to put me in the best possible position to succeed at high jump, even though some of the choices are not easy. To win that gold medal for Australia in front of my home fans makes it all worth it.
I have gone on to enjoy a great season in 2018 (equalling the Oceanian record of 2.36m) but it was winning in Gold Coast that brought my career to life. It has changed everything.
Steve Landells for the IAAF