Jacko Gill got his hands on a New Zealand flag, draped it over his shoulders and set off around Alexander Stadium to celebrate his Birmingham Commonwealth Games silver medal.
Fellow Kiwi and gold medal shot put winner Tom Walsh was alongside him, soaking up the generous applause the 32,000-strong crowd offered on Saturday morning (NZT).
Walsh had been there and done that before. But Gill’s first major senior medal was a heck of a long time coming.
“Huge. I don’t know, I never really dreamed of this happening…it’s crazy, I don’t know what to say,” Gill said after throwing a personal-best 21.90m.
Now 27-years-old, the young Aucklander had been touted to shine on the big stage more than a decade ago, even before he won one of his two junior world titles in 2012.
Gill had made headlines the previous year with a six-minute training video he posted on YouTube, showcasing his strength training, which included unusual methods, such as jumping over a fellow teen and one-arm bench pressing a dog.
He also dunked a basketball hoop with a shot put in the video, and at 16-years-old had reached the Olympic qualifying standard.
Forget Walsh. It was Gill who was the talk of the town at a time he was even eyeing a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
However, not helped by injuries, including to his back and pectoral muscle, Gill’s rise stalled.
Then, in 2017, he was diagnosed with myocarditis – well before everyone grew accustomed to the word through the Covid-19 pandemic.
It – inflammation of the heart muscle – ruled him out of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
“Just to come back from the heart stuff has been huge, and been a really big battle. I lost like 25-30kg after my heart issues and being in hospital,” Gill said after finally breaking his duck.
“To come back here and get a silver with a PB means a lot. It’s been a long process. Just like the mental health stuff was huge.”
Gill is a vastly different athlete to the tin-lifting machine from those YouTube videos.
Gone are the days of bench pressing 250kg, as is caffeine from his diet.
“I’m actually weaker than I was eight years ago. I’ve just really been working on my technique and that’s been huge,” he said.
“In terms of injuries, my body has been recovering better because I’m not loading up on weights as much.”
Having gone into the Birmingham final with a 21.58m lifetime best, Gill went over 21m with three of his six attempts.
He saved his best for last, obliterating his personal-best and giving Walsh a wake-up call, one he responded to by unwinding a 22.26m final statement.
Gill briefly thought he’d catapulted into the lead, and gone over the elusive 22m mark he’s desperate to breach.
“To hit the line and be just behind was exciting but disappointing,” he said.
“That’s my dream, to throw 22. That’s all we train for really, to throw 22m. We don’t want to win gold medals, just have that distance in mind.”
Silver medal in the bag, he’ll take that mindset with him when he jumps on a plane on Sunday, bound for Hungary, where he and Walsh will go at it again.
“[I’ve got] huge confidence. I’ve been in great form, but haven’t really had that great throw.”