Laugher won 3m synchro gold with Chris Mears in Rio five years ago, Britain’s first-ever diving title at the Games.
But his challenge, with new partner Dan Goodfellow, never managed to ignite on a day they would like to quickly forget.
At the test event in Tokyo earlier this year they set a 440.94 personal best that would have been enough for bronze here.
But they struggled throughout, their performance more reminiscent of their show at the recent European Championships.
“Springboard is a bit of bitch sometimes and it can go south very quickly – it was a tough day,” admitted Laugher.
“We’ve competed two other times this year, we had a brilliant event here and then a real stinker at the European Championships, this is another one of them unfortunately.
“We’ve worked really hard but people at home just see this, rather than the hard work we’ve put in.
“Usually I’d be quite sad but I know how hard we’ve worked, I just apologise to everyone at home that we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“Our training has been really good, I feel it didn’t reflect what we’ve been training like.
“It’s really hard to explain how nerve wracking competing at the Olympic Games is and it’s a big ask for us to get medals at our first Olympics together.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved, this is just a bad day and everyone has them.
“The errors we made were because we had too much adrenaline, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It wasn’t a great competition in terms of scores, that shows how difficult it has been for us all in the last 18 months.”
An inward three-and-a-half somersault tuck in the third round scored them just 63.24 after Goodfellow, who won synchronised 10m platform bronze with Tom Daley five years ago, over-rotated on entry.
Another poor fourth-round dive kept the pair last and a forward four-and-a-half somersaults effort in the fifth earned just 62.70 points.
Their final dive, a forward two-and-a-half somersaults three twists pike, was comfortably their best and at least lifted them off the bottom of the standings.
Laugher and Goodfellow avoided finishing last after the Russian Olympic Committee team’s final effort was ruled as a no-dive.
When Mears retired to focus on his career on the DJ decks, Laugher joined forces with Goodfellow.
And hopes were high after they won silver at their first World Championships together and gold at the World Cup in Tokyo just three months ago.
Laugher will now focus on his 3m individual event, in which he claimed silver at the last Olympics and bronze at the 2019 Worlds.
“I need to iron out the mistakes and keep moving forward,” he added. “I need to reset again but I’m confident.”
Meanwhile, Goodfellow insisted he had no regrets about his switch from platform to springboard diving, despite watching Daley and Leeds’ Matty Lee take gold together earlier this week at the same venue.
“It was absolutely the right thing to do, I’m enjoying my springboard diving and coming into training every day without worrying about getting injured,” he said.
“We’ve had some very good results so it’s 100 percent the right decision.
“We were both a bit nervous but we also felt really good and we’ve been training well. We didn’t have a good Europeans but we still felt very positive.
“In springboard diving the margin for error is so small and with dives this difficult you can easily make mistakes.”
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