'I cried myself to sleep': Team GB diver's 'redemption' after 2019 failure

·3-min read
Great Britain's Jack Laugher during the Men's 3m Springboard Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on the eleventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Tuesday August 3, 2021. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Great Britain's Jack Laugher during the Men's 3m Springboard Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Jack Laugher has revealed that he nearly quit the sport after going to "rock bottom" during mental health struggles on the diving board, before turning the tables to land a brilliant bronze at Tokyo 2020. 

Laugher had won silver in the 3m at Rio 2016 and gold in the synchronised men's 3m before losing his way on the board.

Laugher pointed to his failing at the last world championships "when I could have been world champion" as one of the catalysts for his mental health issues ahead of his brilliant turnaround at the Olympics on Tuesday.

"Making such a crucial mistake, it really cost me my self confidence, my self-esteem, anxiety around training, competing as well," he told Eurosport.

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“I’ve completed the set, but for me it was so much more than a piece of metal around my neck.

"Today I feel like I got it back. I feel like we’ve worked so hard with my psychologist, my coach, my friends, family and I felt like I was me today, I really did.

Two years ago, he had led the world championships from the first round until his final entry when he produced a horror last dive when ahead by 30 points.

The Yorkshireman said: “Honestly I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve hit rock bottom, I feel like, and today, it’s redemption. 

Great Britain's Jack Laugher (left) and coach Adam Smallwood react after the Men's 3m Springboard Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on the eleventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Tuesday August 3, 2021. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Great Britain's Jack Laugher (left) and coach Adam Smallwood react after the Men's 3m Springboard Final. (PA Images via Getty Images)

"I feel great, I feel back to normal again, you need that confidence 100% and I think this is going to give me my confidence back.

“It’s such a technical and power sport at the same time, you’re putting so much strength into the board but you’re having to count the somersaults and if you’re like I was, I had no confidence in myself whatsoever, guessing where I was, having no idea and I was making the same mistake over and over again.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 03: Bronze medalist Jack Laugher of Great Britain poses during the medal ceremony for the Men's 3m Springboard Final on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 3, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Bai Yu/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)
Jack Laugher has now completed the full set of gold, silver and bronze at Olympic Games. (CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)

Laugher admitted that dealing with the technicalities led to him mulling over retiring from elite sport in Olympic year.

"I wanted to quit this year at quite a few points," he added. "It’s really, really hard but I worked with psychologists, stripping everything back to basics and getting back to what is just you.

Asked whether he had experienced the same ‘twisties’ issues as superstar US gymnast Simone Biles, Laugher said that it was "the exact same thing".

The Harrogate diver added: "When you’re at the top of your game, the expectation is on you, all of a sudden you lose such a fine motor skill, it’s such a small thing that can go wrong, but when you have to it on the big stage, it’s terrifying."

GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 18: Jack Laugher of Great Britain reacts after his attempt during the Men's 3m Springboard Final on day seven of the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre on July 18, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Jack Laugher reacts during the Men's 3m Springboard Final at the World Championships. (Getty Images)

“It destroys your mental health, it destroys your self confidence in yourself, and that’s what we need when we go out there. We need to be confident, we need to be strong, and there’s no way you can do it. It’s so hard, I wish her all the best, I’ve been through a similar thing and it does get better.”

Laugher's bronze atoned for the disappointment of finishing seventh in his 3m synchro title defence, alongside Dan Goodfellow. 

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