Written by Jonathan Rudd
A massive congratulations from I’m From Yorkshire towers to Harrogate’s Jack Laugher, and Chris Mears, who resides in Leeds, for their fantastic gold medal in the synchronised diving. The duo beat off stiff competition from China and the USA to clinch team GB’s third gold medal of the Rio Olympic Games, becoming the first ever British athletes finish at the top of a diving podium. Competing in the 3m springboard class, the duo produced six incredible dives to impress the watching judges. Their final score of 454.32 was four ahead of the silver medal winning American pair of Sam Dorman and Mike Hickson,
Jack Laugher was born in Harrogate in 1995 and educated at Ripon Grammar School. He took up diving aged 7 in 2002 and joined his hometown diving club. Jack took part in his first youth international event at Aachen in 2008. He soon rose to the top of the youth diving ranks, winning World and Junior titles in 2010.
Laugher joined Leeds diving club in 2011, which is based at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Beeston, where he further developed his diving career.
By now he was competing in more international competitions and made his first appearance in a multi-sport event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, aged just fifteen. He finished 7th in the 3m synchronised diving and 11th in the individual 3m event.
His development continued in the earlier part of this decade. He won his first British title aged sixteen, which enabled him to compete at the London 2012 games, still at the tender age of 17. Although he finished in 27th place in the individual event, this experience would stand him in good stead for the future.
Jack Laugher rose to the very top of British diving. winning the national championships three times in a row between 2011-13 and starting to compete on the International stage. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games he first came to national attention when he won Gold and silver in the 1 & 3m springboard classes respectively at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh.
Chris Mears had a more troubled path to the top. Born in Reading in 1993, he joined his local diving club and soon climbed the youth ranks, culminating in a 7th placed finished at the 2008 Youth World Championships and a promising career lay ahead of him.
In January 2009 disaster struck when he suffered a ruptured spleen. Mears was given only a 5% chance of survival and told by doctors that he would never dive again. A further seizure, which resulted in a three day coma further set back his recovery. Amazingly and against all medical odds, he made a full recovery and resumed his diving career. Like Laugher he appeared at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, just eighteen months after his illness and finished fourth with partner, Nicholas Robinson-Baker.
Mears carried on diving and eventually relocated to Leeds in 2014, where he teamed up with Laugher. They formed the partnership which would see them selected for the Rio Olympic Games. Their first major international competition together was the Diving World Championships of 2015 in Kazan, where they won a bronze medal in the 3m synchronised diving event.
The pair arrived in Rio, perhaps not as favorites to win the gold medal- in fact, GB had never won the top prize in any diving event. The Southern press, were of course focused on Tom Daley, but it is a Yorkshireman (and an adopted one) who have so far stolen the show in Rio.
Cover image: With thanks to Jonny Craft