Some may consider the art of unicycling to be nothing more than just a circus act with little in the way of a sporting pedigree. However, Edinburgh rider Jason Auld would be first in line to offer a strong case against anyone who possesses such an assumption.
The 23-year-old former Boroughmuir High pupil, whose profession is as an extreme unicyclist, is currently preparing for the Unicycle World Championships as the only Scottish rider who will represent Great Britain in Brixen, northern Italy, when the competition gets under way in just over a week’s time. However, he also stresses a real desire to remove the tag of unicycling being labelled as nothing more than a “joke” and start earning the respect that other extreme sports participants generate.
“There is this stereotype of it being just an act, but I would describe myself as a very ambitious person.” Auld said. “I want to promote the sport as much as I can and make people more aware of it. I don’t want to be a celebrity or anything like that. I just want the sport to become more mainstream. I’ve already been in at schools for example to show what it’s like so it would be good to really keep going at grassroots level.
“I’m looking forward to the World Championships. It takes in all styles of unicycling including 100 metres sprints, marathons, freestyle and mountain unicycling so it’s kind of the sport’s equivalent of the Olympic Games.
“We know we will be going there as underdogs and it may be a struggle, but I would personally be happy if we finished in the top eight. I’ll go there and give it my best shot and I’m certainly not going just to make up the numbers.”
The former gym instructor, who also does street performances with five others who make up the Voodoo Unicycle team, moved from amateur to professional after being invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival for 30 days in 2008.
It was then a realisation that the opportunity to enter the entertainment market, coupled with the promotion of the sport could potentially attract, carried too much of an appeal to not have a go – a decision justified by a later performance at the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
He said: “After doing 30 days straight at the festival, I thought: ‘Why can’t I do this professionally? This is what I want to do so why can’t I do it?’
“I packed my job in and went for it, but I wasn’t really making any money for a year, so it was hard trying to find your feet.
“I think performing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix shows that we’re now not just performing locally, which is still important to me. However, it was fantastic to perform in front of thousands and also gave us the opportunity to work with other urban athletes, so this really opened my mind.
“We have also been approached to perform at the Olympic Village which is an opportunity we wouldn’t turn down, so this one is looking promising.”
Touching on how he found himself positioned on the one-wheeled pedalled vehicle, Auld admits he suddenly developed an impromptu desire to have a crack aged 14. However, as his technical ability improved, so did the need to step up to the plate in terms of preparation to keep in touch with his move from amateur to professional.
He added: “There is no real glamorous story to it. I just saw what it was all about and fancied having a go. It’s about repetition when you first start and just keep doing it as much as you can until you feel comfortable.
“When I was still at school and then working a nine-to-five job, I didn’t really do it as much. But in the past four years since I took it up professionally, I stick to quite a strict training regime and try to get out each day. I approach it like every other professional athlete where you have to put the hours in to improve.”