Laugher & Harding Get Britain Off To Silver Start at Fukuoka 2023 World Titles
Jack Laugher and Anthony Harding secured a second successive World Championship silver and made sure of the Olympic quota spot for the Men’s 3m Synchro at Paris 2024 as they got British Diving’s Worlds campaign off to a silver-lined start, British Swimming’s Joshua Murray writes.
The Leeds British Diving Performance Centre pair have become ever-presents on international podiums over their first year as a partnership, and a series of classy and clinical dives at the Fukuoka Prefectural Pool ensured a repeat of their result at last year’s World Championships.
Consistency is another word to sum up Jack and Anthony’s performance here, with the duo sitting second after their two opening requireds and never wavering from that lofty position.
Two outstanding dives in rounds four and five – including a Forward 4 1/2 Somersaults Tuck (109C) worth 83.22 points that was the highest-scoring of the round – put them within touching distance of another piece of international silverware and that precious Olympic place for next summer.
And they duly delivered, closing out with a Forward 2 1/2 Somersaults 3 Twists (5156B) that saw them finish on 424.62, behind the victorious Chinese pair of Wang Zongyuan and Long Daoyi, but well ahead of bronze medallists Jules Bouyer and Alexis Jandard from France.
That means the Adam Smallwood-coached duo have won two World Championship silvers, a European title, Commonwealth gold and two Diving World Cup silvers in just over a year in the Men’s 3m Synchro.
And this one was particularly special for Jack and Anthony, who have battled through various injury setbacks in recent months to emphatically get the job done in Japan.
“It’s been a hugely stressful day. It’s been a rough ride for me and Anthony, although we’ve been really successful this year with the World Cup silvers and then another one to follow up here today, and obviously the Olympic qualification was on the line,” said Laugher.
“I’ve had a terrible knee which still is not 100 per cent at all, Anthony had two massive injuries as well in the pre-season, so this year has been, in comparison to last year, not smooth sailing at all.
“But we are here, we’ve done the job, we’re really happy with the performance, there are still some things to improve on. Between Anthony and I, we just want to thank everyone who has been involved in getting us to where we are now – without the physios, doctors, medical staff, our coaches, friends and family and everyone involved in our team, we would not be here without them. It’s been a very emotional day with some dropped dives here and there, but we’re really happy overall.”
Speaking about those challenges and overcoming the pressure of a world final and Olympic qualifier double, Harding added: “I’ve been quite stressed about the situation, about qualifying. But the difference from last year for me was I’ve grown up a lot, I feel like I’m a lot more experienced now, I’m happy with the dives I do. I’ve had the injuries, I’ve come back and I’m maybe not as strong as I was last year, but to put in a performance like that with Jack is amazing.”
As for the guaranteed Olympic spot for Team GB in the Men’s 3m Synchro at Paris 2024, it was very much job done for the Leeds duo, making sure it’s wrapped up a full year out from the Games.
“It’s a massive weight off our shoulders. It means we can have a proper pre-season, we don’t have to rush into that competition (February’s World Championships in Doha), because it’s so early on in February. That causes quite a bit of stress and knowing that’s your last chance saloon can be quite difficult,” added Jack.
“Luckily for me, this is Olympics number four and I’ve never had to get to that position before, so I’m really happy to have done it today. For me and Anthony, we’ve not talked too much about it, we don’t want to make it into a bigger deal than it is but we’ve both been stressed and it’s a really difficult thing, especially when you’ve got the French also getting a medal which knocks one qualifying place off today’s competition.
“So it’s difficult – but we are athletes, we got through it, we’re warriors and we’ve done our job.”