England’s Jack Laugher showed three nerveless and nearly flawless final vaults to win 1 meter springboard gold for the third consecutive Commonwealth Games. His late rise to the top of the rankings saw teammate Jordan Houlden edge out first place and settle for bronze, while Australia’s Shixin Li took silver. Scotsman James Heatley, whose grandfather won this event at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, finished fourth.
In the absence of Tom Daley, who is taking a break from sport to spend time with his family, the English spotlight has shone brightly on Laugher this week. The 27-year-old holds a glittering Commonwealth record of five gold and one silver titles and became a two-time champion in the 1m springboard after winning gold at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018, finishing fourth, a result he clinched before a got on the nerves of the passionate home crowd that divers don’t often experience on the regular circuit. “I just have to let go and enjoy myself,” he said ahead of the final, and he certainly did.
Bronze was also quite an achievement from Houlden, a Sheffield boy who was once afraid of water. Houlden began life as a gymnast and it was his acrobatics that first caught Sheffield Diving’s eye. he earned a three-day trial run even though he couldn’t swim yet, and had to work up the courage to jump into deep water. Ahead of the Games, Houlden had called a medal “unlikely,” and yet he was leading the final after three rounds out of six – so clean were his first two difficult jumps that he walked away with a tattered third.
But Laugher reserved his more technical jumps into the final rounds, taking the lead from Houlden in round four with a crisp 2 1/2 inward somersaults for a 79.90 (Houlden had scored 81.60 with the same jump in the opening round). Meanwhile, Australia’s Li, who had won the preliminary rounds, faltered and fell behind the English duo. He scored just 61.5 of his 2½ backflip before hitting his best jump of 81.60 in round five to rejoin the fight for gold.
That left Laugher 10 points clear of Li going into the final round, while Houlden was another four points adrift of third place. Silence fell over the arena as Laugher paused for breath at the back of the board, but he’d been here before and there was no sign of nervousness as he delivered a beautifully balanced 3½ front somersault. The crowd immediately sensed it would be enough for gold, and a score of 80.85 confirmed this, even with Houlden and Li still missing. A few moments later, Li got the exact same score from the exact same jump to earn the silver.
“Jordan’s first two dives were absolutely amazing,” admitted Laugher as he stepped out of the pool. “What a way to celebrate with my teammate on the podium. What an achievement to win three consecutive Commonwealth games.”
Laugher has struggled with his mental health since the last few games and experienced what he described as “the worst two years of his life” during which he considered quitting diving altogether. “Everyone has struggles and hardships and I think it’s really important that we all try to help each other,” he said. “My advice is to talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling.”
Houlden was delighted with bronze. “[I’m] really speechless because I didn’t expect to get the bronze medal,” he said. “I came here, it’s a really nice facility and I’ve been diving really well. It was definitely a bit overwhelming in the heats but I was able to work on it and see how it was going to be this afternoon and did really well.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/commonwealth-games/jack-laugher-diving-1m-springboard-result-b2138415.html Jack Laugher wins 1m springboard gold to retain his Commonwealth Games crown