AS he stood at the end of the vault runway, Adam Cox took the opportunity to pause and savour the moment amid the electric atmosphere of The Hydro in Glasgow.
For the Scottish gymnast it was his last performance in a sporting career spanning almost two decades. It was also the goodbye to gymnastics that he never thought he would have when the 27-year-old walked away on the eve of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
"I landed my first vault and thought to myself: 'Do you know what? Take your time on the walk back up,'" says Cox, smiling. "You have 30 seconds after the judge salutes before your second vault and I decided to take 10 or 15 seconds to simply soak it all up."
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The PE teacher from Livingston quit gymnastics four years ago when his coach, Tan Jia En, was made redundant as they prepared to depart for Delhi. He re-emerged from retirement in late 2012 with the goal of gaining closure in terms of his truncated sporting career.
Cox now plans to retire for good after captaining the silver medal- winning Team Scotland quintet at the Commonwealth Games. "It was a brilliant experience," he says. "To be back at a home Games with the crowd right behind you felt fantastic. I was really pleased with my performances. I thought I did my job well for the team by putting four solid routines in. I tried to get the crowd behind the boys and keep everyone going. Making the vault final was a nice bonus so I went out there determined to enjoy it."
The contrast between now and 2010 could hardly be more marked. "It feels different this time around," Cox says. "It was such a huge disappointment with Delhi, but in Glasgow it's been sheer elation. Having a two-year break away from the sport gave me fresh perspective. I was more composed and relaxed. It was nice to come back, be absorbed by it all again and give it everything."
His wife Kim, pregnant with their first child, was spotted wearing a T-shirt featuring a photograph of Cox that read "Go Adam!" and an arrow underneath to her growing bump that read: "Adam's baby!". Cox praised her incredible support, not only shouting herself hoarse in the crowd over several days but being the constant reassuring voice in his ear since he re-emerged from retirement.
"For most of the past two years we have been like ships that pass in the night with our different schedules," says Cox. "It has been difficult. I've been coming in from work and going straight to the gym. Kim works on a Sunday and I train on a Saturday so even the weekends have disappeared. But looking back now it feels like it has all gone in a flash.
"Kim was always the one who said I should go back and give it another go, that I would regret it if I didn't. I was always a bit more reserved and cautious about how my body would hold up and whether I would still have it in me to compete at a major championships like this. But as soon as I was back in the gym, got a feel for the apparatus again then went to the Scottish Championships last year and took the all-around title I thought: 'Do you know what? You've still got it in you. It's worth that last push'. I'm so glad that I did."
o Read Adam Cox's full reflection on his Games experience in the Sunday Herald next week