Commonwealth Games: Ripon's Jack Laugher focused on the here and now

Jack Laugher is a big medal hope for Team England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Jack Laugher is a big medal hope for Team England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Jack Laugher is not one to dwell on past accomplishments.

Olympic champion he may be, but his ambition is to be a dominant force in diving for many more years to come.

But when he does hang up the trunks and begins the reflections on a job well done, the role the Commonwealth Games has played in shaping the world-beating diver he has become, will no doubt be viewed as a significant one.

The 2010 Games in Delhi was the starting point, the first major international competition the 15-year-old from Harrogate competed in.

A seventh-place finish in the 3m springboard final underlined the promise that by Glasgow in 2014 he would realise with a performance of such stunning superiority that his crowning moment in Rio two years later should have surprised no one.

Laugher, who had been steadily accumulating podium finishes at global events across the world, won two gold medals at his second Commonwealth Games and added a silver in the 3m individual to boot.

“The Commonwealths is a great event and one we’re prioritising,” said Laugher, before heading off to the Gold Coast for his third appearance in the old Empire Games.

“In the diving world it’s not seen as the pinnacle, but on a personal level, for pride and for your country, it’s a massive thing.

“I’ve grown up watching the Commonwealth Games on TV and to me it means a lot.”

Laugher, now 25, arrives in Australia under-cooked after a winter spent nursing a surgically-repaired ankle back to full health.

He has been unable to hit the heights he scaled in Rio in 2016, when he and Chris Mears became the first Britons to win an Olympic diving title in the 3m synchro.

The fact that he then went on to win a silver in the individual event, confirmed his arrival at the top table of world diving.

“I don’t look back anymore,” he says. “It was an amazing competition and we did fantastically well but when you get caught up in the past you forget about what you’ve got to do in the present.

“So I still look at it and think what an achievement, but I try not to focus on it too much.”

Last year was difficult for both men – “I was living on a dream that 2017 would be as good a year as Rio” – but they arrive on the 3m springboard reinvigorated.

“I’m in a brilliant place and I’m really positive about this year,” adds Laugher.

“I want to be at the top of my game for as long as I can. I’m realistically looking to maintain my focus for as long as possible.”

Mears added: “For us it’s less about the title of Commonwealth champions, it’s more about personal goals.

“We know we’re really good divers and what we’re capable of. We just want to push the boundaries of what we can score as a team and where that leaves us on the rostrum is where it is.”

Laugher and Mears are joined in Australia by five team-mates from the City of Leeds club, a number which means more than 50 percent of Team England’s diving squad train at the John Charles Aquatics Centre.

It is a statistic that speaks to the standards set at the club, even in the wake of the coaching departures of Ady Hinchliffe and Edwin Jongejans, who have passed the baton on to Adam Smallwood and Marc Holdsworth.

“We were extremely lucky to have Ady and I thought he’d be the man to take me to the end of my career,” said Laugher, who was very outspoken at the time of Hinchliffe’s departure, as he was lured away by the Australian Diving Association without British Diving meeting his demands to stay.

“But Adam and Marc are doing fantastic jobs. We are down one high-end performance coach, but the squad is still doing amazingly well and I have full faith in our coaching and technical staff.”

Alicia Blagg returns to Commonwealth action from her studies at the University of Miami, while a new crop of divers from the City of Leeds Club, all well-versed in international competition and hoping to follow in Laugher’s trailblazing steps, are: Katherine Torrance, Lois Toulson, Matty Lee and Daniel Goodfellow.

There are two more divers representing England from Yorkshire; the Haslam brothers from the City of Sheffield club.

British champion Jack, 23, teams up with younger brother Ross, 21, in the 3m synchro.