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Commonwealth Games: Laugher deals with pressures to seal memorable golden hat-trick

Yorkshire's Jack Laugher, left, and Chris Mears during the Men's Synchronised 3m Springboard at the Optus Aquatic Centre. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.
Yorkshire's Jack Laugher, left, and Chris Mears during the Men's Synchronised 3m Springboard at the Optus Aquatic Centre. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.
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THE athletes might have the monopoly on ‘Super Saturday’ but England’s divers made it ‘Fantastic Friday’ as Jack Laugher capped off ‘the best day in English diving history’ to complete a hat-trick of titles.

Laugher has become such a consistent sport in the force that he almost stole the limelight from Tom Daley as he took his third gold of the week alongside Chris Mears in the 3m synchro – the event where they won Olympic gold in Rio two years ago.

The English medal rush had started with Daley, who combined with Dan Goodfellow to take victory in the 10m synchro, with Noah Williams and Matty Dixon taking silver in that event.

From a wider British perspective, Grace Reid earned gold for Scotland in the 1m springboard and for Laugher, who overtook Daley with his fifth Commonwealth gold, there have been few better days on the boards.

He said: “It’s been a fantastic day. For all of us to get medals today. British diving’s looking extremely strong at the moment. We’ve had some fantastic results. Today’s been one of the best in English diving history.

“I’ve dived brilliantly over these past three days, but it hasn’t been easy at all. I’ve had to dive really well to get these titles and I’m really proud of getting them and how I’ve performed.

England's England's Jack Laugher (left) and Chris Mears celebrate winning gold. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

England's England's Jack Laugher (left) and Chris Mears celebrate winning gold. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

“People expect you to be the best and that’s always hard. I always struggle with that. When you’re Olympic champion, Olympic silver medallist, world medallist, people expect you to win. That’s difficult. To have all those pressures and to deliver, it feels brilliant.”

While Laugher has been the standout diver at these Games, longstanding partner Chris Mears was yesterday once again by his side to perform.

And after a 2017 where he started to question his love of the sport, Mears was thrilled to be back on top of the diving world – taking gold in his only event in Gold Coast.

He said: “I dug myself out of the hole I was in. And now I feel like myself again. I love competing under pressure. I’ve been a diver since I was seven years old. It’s part of my identity. It just feels right.”

When you’re Olympic champion, Olympic silver medallist, world medallist, people expect you to win. That’s difficult. To have all those pressures and to deliver, it feels brilliant.

Jack Laugher

Meanwhile, Goodfellow admitted relief as he and Daley held off English team-mates Dixon and Williams.

The Olympic bronze medallists were far from fluent in the competition. Daley was struggling with the hip injury that ruled him out of today’s individual event, while Goodfellow fluffed his final dive.

“Annoyingly that is usually my best dive,” he said.

“Tom’s been struggling with it all week, but it turns out I was the one that dropped it. All the other dives were really good, five out of six, the back 3½ pike we did scored 90 points and we haven’t done that in a long time.”

England's Alicia Blagg in the Women's 1m Springboard Final at the Optus Aquatic Centre. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

England's Alicia Blagg in the Women's 1m Springboard Final at the Optus Aquatic Centre. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

Kat Torrance and Leeds’s Alicia Blagg missed out on the medals in the 1m springboard, finishing fifth and seventh respectively as Scotland’s Grace Reid took the title.

In the athletics, Alex Bell had already surprised herself just by making the 800m Commonwealth final.

So after claiming an impressive fifth-place finish in the final last night in the Carrara Stadium, the Leeds athlete admits she will now be aiming higher for the rest of the season.

Bell stopped the clock – in a race won by double Olympic champion Caster Semenya – in 2.00.81 mins.

That was the second day in a row therefore that she had produced a two-minute performance and with the European Championships still to come at the end of the summer, the signs are promising.

Initially overlooked for the England squad, Bell was only called up for these Games from the reserve list when Desiree Henry got injured.

And while the 25-year-old didn’t want to make too big a deal out of it, it is clear that her initial snub has provided motivation.

“I am absolutely delighted to have run 2.00 minutes twice in a row here,” she said.

“It took me all of last season to get one, so to do those times so early on in the season, it just gets me excited for what the summer holds. I am looking forward to what happens in the rest of the season, I have still got a lot of tweaks to make.

“I wasn’t that nervous out there today, yesterday I was shaking like a leaf but today I had nothing to “fear, nothing to lose and I just went out there to give it everything.

“I wasn’t in the original team, and if the opportunity had not come for me to step into the original team, who knows what would have happened?

“Would I have the motivation and the confidence that I do now?

“What has happened has happened,

“You draw the line and move on, you just do whatever you can to prove people wrong.”

It was less good news for Alicia Barrett however, the 20-year-old clattered an early hurdle and ended up last in the 100m hurdle final – much to her disappointment.

“I tried to keep the aggression going from the start but I came up a bit funny and after that I made too many mistakes,” she said.

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