Freddie Woodward uses Jack Laugher as signpost to success

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The deeds of Jack Laugher in winning gold and silver at the Rio Olympics have given another Yorkshire diver the perfect blueprint to follow on the road to Tokyo 2020.

Freddie Woodward made his Olympic debut in Rio, missing out on a place in the semi-finals of the 3m springboard by a single point.

Team England's, l-r, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears celebrate gold, and Nick Baker-Robinson and Freddie Woodward bronze, in the synchronised 3m springboard final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire).

Team England's, l-r, Jack Laugher and Chris Mears celebrate gold, and Nick Baker-Robinson and Freddie Woodward bronze, in the synchronised 3m springboard final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire).

Laugher claimed silver in that event, the culmination of an Olympic cycle in which he improved his global standing year on year.

Now Sheffield’s Woodward, who at 21 is the same age as Harrogate’s Laugher, wants to emulate Britain’s most successful diver.

“I’ve done better in my first Games than he did, he won’t mind me saying that,” said the City of Sheffield diver in reference to Laugher slipping off the diving board in the 3m preliminary round at London 2012.

“Jack and I grew up competing against each other, but he’s accelerated ahead. He’s a phenomenal talent, he’s worked very hard and he’s one of the most powerful divers there is in terms of his physique and the way he dives.

“His lower body strength, how hard he pushes the board down, is one of the things I need to work on. If I can get my legs the size of Jack Laugher’s ... that’s my primary focus.”

Rio was not even on Woodward’s radar at the beginning of 2016, but the Sheffield diver, who was talent-spotted at school at the age of seven, transformed his fortunes when he won gold in the 1m and 3m at the National Cup in February. He then reached the final of the European Championships before finishing second to Laugher at the Olympic trials.

“I was pleased with the way I performed in Rio,” he said.

“Now I’ve proved to myself it’s possible, and I’m looking at Tokyo thinking let’s see how high I can climb. Can I get into the top six in the world? I’ve got four years to do that. It seems a long time, but an Olympics can creep up on you.

“It’s given me a confidence boost. I’ve always slightly undersold myself, but now I’m an Olympian, I’m part of that elite club.”