Jack Laugher has won bronze for Team GB in the individual 3m springboard at the Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, in a final that delivered a Chinese diving masterclass of execution and daring.
After taking silver five years ago in Rio, Laugher was going for gold in these Games but after the event admitted he had regularly cried himself to sleep after a dip in form starting at the 2019 world championships.
A near flawless series of unimaginably difficult dives sent China’s 25-year-old Xie Siyi top of the podium on his Olympic debut, with his 19-year-old compatriot Wang Zongyuan in second.
It was a culmination of an extraordinary Olympic performance by the pair, after they had already won the synchronised diving competition at their first Olympics. Xie – the reigning world champion, who missed out on Rio because of an injury – led after every round of this competition, finishing with a six-round total of 558.75pts. Wang was not far behind with 558.75 while Laugher finished with a total score of 518.00 for bronze.
Team GB’s James Heatly, whose grandad Peter Heatly won gold as a diver for Great Britain at the 1948 Games, finished in ninth after a strong final dive and a total of 411.00.
After taking bronze Laugher smiled into the camera and mouthed: “I love you Mum; I love you Dad.” He put in a gutsy performance, improving his speed and execution as he moved into the most difficult dives of the final.
The 26-year-old now has a full set of Olympic medals, after winning 3m synchro gold alongside Chris Mears– the first time Britain had won an Olympic diving title – and the individual 3m silver, both in 2016.
Last week Laugher lost the Olympic crown he won in Rio, after a disappointing performance with his partner, Dan Goodfellow. But Laugher said his bronze medal meant more than his others, because it was proof of his mental fortitude.
“This means so much. I’m not going to lie, I wanted to quit earlier this year and I’d been been crying myself to sleep,” Laugher told BBC Sport.
Dedicating his medal to his friends, family, psychologist and coach, he said it was “proof” that he could come through the struggle. “I know it’s not a gold medal - it’s not as good as it was in Rio. But for me, this bronze medal means 100 times more than any medal I’ve ever got,” he said.
Laugher’s success was Team GB’s second diving medal of Tokyo 2020, after Tom Daley and Matty Lee’s 10m synchro platform gold. Daley, who has delighted fans not only with his performances but his knitting prowess while watching other divers, will be aiming for a second gold in the individual event on Saturday.
The individual 3m springboard final was a tense affair, with South Korea’s Woo Ha-ram fighting for a place on the podium and keeping Laugher honest to the last. In the fifth round there was a moment when silver seemed possible for Laugher, after his strongest dive – a forward four-and-a-half somersaults – won 96.90 points, but Wang immediately produced a dive which cemented his silver-medal position.
There were also tears and applause after the final dive from Japan’s Ken Terauchi, as the 40-year-old received a standing ovation. The diver has now competed in six Olympic Games (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020), seeing out his final performance on home soil.