JACK Laugher and Lois Toulson are aiming to be Yorkshire’s golden diving couple at the Commonwealth Games.
That would have been hard to envisage a month ago as Laugher’s participation hung in the balance following an unsuccessful operation.
The Harrogate diver went under the knife to try and solve a troublesome ankle injury over the winter but, rather than solve the issue, all it served to do was hamper his preparations ahead of his title defence.
Four years ago, in Glasgow, Laugher won the 1m springboard and 3m synchronised springboard titles, as well as picking up 3m individual silver.
Despite being forced to dive in pain and with strapping on his ankle, Laugher is hopeful of similar success in Australia.
“I had my bone shaved away out of my ankle and, unfortunately, it hasn’t fully healed the actual injury I had before – it hasn’t made a difference really,” said the 23-year-old.
“So I’ve still got the exact same pain that I had before. Not only did I have an operation and took two months out, but I’ve still got that pain.
“It’s a bit annoying but we’ve worked really hard on getting as much range as possible and we’re taping up my ankle now so that I am able to dive.
“Only one month ago I was unable to do any sort of back take-off so it was looking bleak to whether I’d even compete here.
“Luckily, I’ve got an amazing support team around me that have given me the ability to compete here.
“But I’m feeling really good and diving really well so I’m really hoping for some good results.”
Laugher used that Glasgow success as a springboard to greater heights when winning Olympic synchronised gold and individual 3m silver in Rio, two years later.
The following season also saw six World Series medals won, including two golds in the 3m individual events, but his progress has been halted by the nagging injury.
It means the dives he will perform at the open-air Optus Aquatics Centre in Gold Coast, are the same at as his last two multi-sport Games.
“I am at the highest end of the scale,” he added. “I have the highest degree of difficulty in the world currently. But I haven’t progressed anything for this competition.
“I’m doing the exact same 1m list as I did four years ago and I’m doing the 3m list I did in Rio as well.
“You know it’s still very difficult, don’t get me wrong, but we are working on a couple of things, hopefully for the next couple of years.”
Despite Laugher’s struggles in recent months, he is still excited to be back wearing Team England kit in Australia.
“It would mean so much to retain the Commonwealth titles, especially with the bad off season that I’ve had.”
Girlfriend Toulson might be making her Games debut but the 18-year-old is well aware of the weight of history behind her.
Team England dominated diving four years ago at Glasgow 2014, securing 10 medals in total, including four golds.
That was a rapid improvement on Delhi four years before that when Tom Daley’s double gold were their only podium finishes.
The pressure is on for Team England to continue that upward progression but Toulson is more than capable of living up to those lofty expectations.
In her short time on the scene, the Huddersfield-born diver has certainly made a splash, with three British titles in four years as well as a world silver and a fifth-place finish at Rio 2016.
“I have been looking forward to this for a long time, and obviously it is my first Commonwealth Games – I am really excited for the whole experience,” she said.
“Our team has had a lot of experience in the past, bringing home a lot of medals which is amazing to watch and definitely inspiring.”
Of her boyfriend, she says: “Watching Jack win four years ago was amazing and I am definitely working really hard to try and follow in the team’s footsteps.”
Toulson’s world silver came last year in the mixed synchronised 10m platform alongside Matty Lee but with no mixed events on the Gold Coast schedule, Toulson will team up with Robyn Birch as well as flying solo in the 10m platform event – getting underway next Wednesday.
“I am going to be performing a back handstand twist dive on the 10m which is my most recent new dive into my list and I have only started competing with this year,” she added, having been on a training camp to the same venue three years ago.
“I am hoping that all goes well. I have been working really hard in the gym and in the pool to make sure it is where it needs to be and it is looking all right.”