Jack Laugher has gained GB’s 50th medal of the Rio Olympics after securing silver in the men’s 3m springboard. Having collected GB’s first-ever diving gold in the synchronised 3m springboard in company with Chris Mears, Laugher again produced his best form when it mattered to finish second behind China’s outstanding Cao Yuan.
The 21-year-old Yorkshireman, now officially GB’s most successful Olympic diver, had only sneaked into the final as the 12th and last qualifier but was never out of the medal positions on another gripping evening. No British diver, Tom Daley included, has ever won more than one than one medal at the same Games.
With a gold and now a silver, Laugher has also outdone Daley’s creditable brace of bronzes in London and Rio. From the outset he looked confident and composed, with only his fourth dive failing to win the judges’ universal approval. He established himself early on as Cao’s closest rival and challenged the remainder of the field to try and play catch-up.
The pressure proved too much for the majority, with Russia’s well-fancied Evgeny Kuznetsov fading after a promising opening dive. Ukraine’s Illya Kvasha subsequently loomed as the biggest threat to Laugher’s second-place status but also faltered to leave Germany’s Patrick Hausding in third place entering the final round.
For the most crucial individual dive of his life Laugher opted for a backwards three and a half somersaults with tuck and duly nailed it, scoring an extremely healthy 88.2. It left Cao needing to top 73.15 to secure the gold, which he duly achieved to guarantee Laugher a richly-merited silver. Hausding also held his nerve to clinch the bronze medal.
It is the first 3m springboard medal ever won by a British man since the event was first contested in London in 2008. Among those to have won the event since include the great American Greg Louganis, although Laugher is likely to find Cao a seriously tough opponent for the foreseeable future. The Chinese diver, also 21, is just eight days younger than his British rival.
Laugher, though, has the unique distinction of having had a bus named after him and is looking forward to taking a ride in it from Ripon to Leeds via Harrogate once he gets home. His father David, who stayed at home to look after the family dog, has revealed that his son left some empty photo frames back at his flat in Leeds waiting to be filled with celebratory pictures from Rio. “I knew I could medal at these Games but with so many nerves and pressure it is really hard,” said Laugher, admitting he had feared nerves would end his campaign prematurely in the semi-finals. “It was my personal worst score since London (in 2012) and I thought it was all over. But I realised if I had a good last dive I might make it and that’s what happened. I had luck on my side but in the final I could really let loose. I had no pressure, no nerves. It was just me on the diving board.”
“After winning gold it was really hard to reset. That was the pinnacle of my career – a gold medal is something to cherish for life. Coming from that mountain top back down to training at 6am, getting back on the board, was difficult. I struggled along the way but I came through it. I will remember this for the rest of my life.”
It is already the best Olympic diving competition Britain have ever enjoyed, with further medals still a possibility. Laugher, who won a bronze medal in last year’s world championships, believes better coaching and facilities, along with lottery funding, have played a part and hopes there will be more success to come.
“We’re looking brilliant as a team...I’m really proud to be part of it.”
Ireland’s Manchester-based Oliver Dingley also had a productive night, finishing in a highly creditable eighth place in his first Games.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010