Jack Laugher sets out on golden trail that could lead all way to Tokyo 2020

Olympian Jack Laugher is toasting the completion of his “best-ever” FINA World Series campaign which he capped off with back-to-back individual golds.

Jack Laugher, after winning gold in the Men's 3m Springboard final at last year's Commonwealth Games. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Yet the Yorkshireman says repeating the trick at this year’s World Championships or next year’s Olympic Games will be anything but easy for a diver acutely aware of being three years older than at Rio 2016.

A then 21-year-old Laugher savoured his career high in South America by taking gold alongside Chris Mears in the men’s 3m synchro event as well as silver in the individual 3m springboard.

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With Mears deciding to take a year out, Laugher is now paired with Tom Daley’s former 10m partner Dan Goodfellow with the duo having already taken bronze in the first leg of this year’s World Series in Sagamihara, Japan.

Jack Laugher in the 1m Springboard Preliminary at last year's European Diving Championships. Picture: Richard Blaxall/SWpix.com

Yet it has been Laugher’s individual exploits that have lit up this year’s series with the diver crowned overall champion after individual bronzes at Sagamihara and Beijing were followed by a silver in Montreal before back-to-back golds in Kazan and London.

Victory in London saw the City of Leeds star fall just 10 points short of an 11-year-old world record score as he finished with an eye-watering total of 562.65 points, with synchro partner Goodfellow back in second.

Laugher is clearly in fine fettle as both this summer’s World Championships and next year’s Olympics loom, although he is reluctant to say he is in his best shape ever, revealing this season’s successes have been far from straightforward.

“Looking after the body is a lot harder than it used to be,” Laugher told The Yorkshire Post.

Jack Laugher. Picture: Rogan Thomson/SWpix.com

“It sounds silly but in just three years the injuries have come in much quicker than they used to.

“My knee is injured, my back is injured – it is little things here and there, not massive things.

“It is not like I need operations or surgery or anything but just having those constant slight injuries makes training a lot more difficult, so I’ve got to be a lot more prepared for those.

“I’ve got to work better with my physios and doctors than I used to have to and it’s about training smarter really.

“I’ve been diving for a long time and I have almost had the world record quite a few times now.

“I’m diving well. I wouldn’t put it best ever Jack Laugher because this year has not been as easy as other years.

“But, overall, I am diving really well so I am really happy with how I am doing and I’m really looking forward to the World Championships.”

Those World Championships will run from July 12-28 in Gwangju, South Korea.

Laugher will be bidding to shine twice in the space of a year in Asia, first looking to better his World Championship bronzes picked up in 2015 in Kazan before all roads then lead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and his quest to go one better than in 2016 and land individual gold.

“Obviously I have changed as a diver,” added Laugher.

“I’m 24 now instead of being 21 so it is difficult but the score that I got at the weekend in London was just fantastic so it really does show me that I am still in form, although this year has been a bit harder than it has been in the past.

“But it really just shows that I am still diving really well.

“A 562 in a diving event is phenomenal and to get some tens as well in there is really rare on springboard so I’m really happy with how it has gone.

“I feel like I have made huge progress.

“Obviously Tokyo is well ahead of us, it’s over a year away now.What I did in Rio was phenomenal, but I’m not entirely sure how easy it is going to be to go out there and do it again!

“China will obviously want to win all eight gold medals if possible and they will be working really hard to make sure they don’t slip up, so it’s not going to be easy at all.

“It’s the World Championships first I’ve got to qualify for, that’s the most important thing and then Tokyo I will take it step by step next year. I’m really looking forward to it and I just hope to God it goes well.”