Laugher is on way back as Shanghai remains the target

Jack Laugher.
Jack Laugher.
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Leeds diving coach Ady Hinchliffe has backed springboard 
specialist Jack Laugher to prove once and for all his London nightmare is behind him.

Laugher, 19, and the City of Leeds squad return to the Olympic Aquatics Centre this weekend for the latest stop on the FINA World Series tour.

It is the first trip back to Stratford since the Olympics, when Harrogate’s Laugher slid off the diving board in the preliminary round and saw his dreams sink out of sight.

Two years on, he is a more mature, more consistent performer at international level, and Hinchliffe is confident Laugher will prosper in what is a busy summer for British diving.

“You get bad experiences in diving, but Jack moved on very quickly, winning titles at the world juniors just a few months later,” said Hinchliffe, whose 
pupil contests the individual and synchro 3m springboard events this week.

“He’s coped very well with what happened in London and any negative feelings he might have I’m sure will be outweighed by his excitement at competing this week.

“He’s out to improve on two sixth-place finishes so far this series so he’s got plenty to be focused on without thinking about the past.”

In the synchro, Laugher is teaming up with fellow Olympian Chris Mears, who has moved up from Plymouth this year to join the highly successful Leeds squad.

Once again the club provide nearly 50 per cent of the personnel for the British team in what is a high-class field against the top seven nations in world diving.

Hannah Starling, 18, teams up with Rebecca Gallantree, 29, in the absence of Wakefield’s Alicia Blagg, who is out with a wrist injury. European junior champion Matty Lee, 16, from Leeds continues his development in the senior ranks.

It might be a glamour event for spectators, due to the nostalgia of returning to the London Aquatics Centre, but this and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are not the priority for the Leeds diving squad in 2014.

“The World Cup in Shanghai this July is the major one for us this year because results there are what our funding is determined on,” said Hinchliffe. “The Commonwealths are great for the athletes to get that exposure and the fans to see the divers, but Shanghai is the target for us.”