Eight years ago, Jack Laugher appeared at his first Commonwealth Games as a precocious 19-year-old, exploding on to the world stage by winning two gold medals in Glasgow 2014. He is 27 now, an accomplished veteran who has faced numerous obstacles.
Yet he continues to triumph. After a timid start, Laugher’s form exploded in the second half of the men’s 1m springboard as he clinched his third consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal, and his seventh medal overall. As the veteran Li Shixin of Australia finished with the silver medal, England’s Jordan Houlden took an excellent bronze medal in his first Commonwealth Games.
It was far from easy. Laugher had struggled in the preliminary round in the afternoon, feeling his nerves as he qualified in fourth place. He arrived in the final under serious pressure from 34-year-old Li of Australia, a two-time world champion.
Yet when the pressure was at its highest, Laugher soared. Houlden led early on, opting for the tactic of throwing down his most difficult dives first and nailing them to establish an early lead. But in the second half, Laugher distanced himself from the pack. For his fourth dive, he spectacularly executed his inverted two and a half piked somersault, the hardest dive in his arsenal, which moved him to first place
Having reached the top, Laughter refused to relinquish his gold medal. He finished spectacularly, slamming down his final two dives and earning an enormous score of 447 points that was just 10 points higher than the ever-consistent Li.
“Today I was pushed,” said Laugher. “It was a big-scoring competition, probably the best-scoring competition we’ve ever had at the Commonwealth Games. Some great performances by everybody and I’m really happy to share the podium with Jordan.”
Laugher’s success is even more meaningful given the struggles he has documented in recent years, with anxiety and other mental health issues leaving him on the verge of quitting the sport after 2019.
“It has been very difficult,” he said. “It is my job and it’s hard to do your job when you’re continually anxious about it. But I’ve moved forward quite a way, I’m seeking the correct help that I need. I think that these wins, medals, here and there, they do a small amount for that.”
After winning bronze on the 3m springboard at the Olympics last year, Laugher told the world that he was back, and he has backed up those words. At the World Championships in June, Laugher departed with three medals, his greatest haul. Now he is a Commonwealth Games champion once again.