Harding and Laugher land Worlds silver at first attempt

26 Jun 2022

Jack Laugher and Anthony Harding made a stunning start to life as a new partnership on the international stage as they claimed Men's 3m Synchro silver to kickstart the diving programme at the World Aquatics Championships.

This event was the first major competition for Laugher and Harding, and the City of Leeds Diving Club duo - coached by Adam Smallwood - showed exactly why they have themselves spoken about being excited by the prospect of their partnership, delivering an eye-opening score of 451.71 to push China all the way and finish second on the podium. 

It owed much to a stunning fifth-round tally of 98.04 for their Forward 4 1/2 Somersaults Tuck (109C), the highest-scoring dive of the competition, with both athletes delivering great individual dives and in fantastic synchronicity to rubber stamp their top-two positioning. 

In fairness, though, their timing did not once waver across all six dives on their list, with strong synchronicity marks all the way through, beginning with two solid required dives to give them the platform to push on with their optionals.

A score of 82.62 for the third-round Forward 2 1/2 Somersaults 2 Twists Pike (5154B) was a slight improvement from the morning's prelims - when they went through second overall - and after that dive moved them into second place, they were only looking in one direction. 

That near-century score in round five was a huge statement, especially after a slight drop in the prelims. The response from morning to afternoon dive was a credit to the pair and particularly to 21-year-old Harding on his first senior international outing - and it was followed up with another excellent dive to finish things off, the judges awarding them 90.09 for their Forward 2 1/2 Somersaults 3 Twists Pike (5156B) with a 3.9 degree of difficulty. 

It left them finishing with an overall score of 451.71, a stunning return so early in their new combination. They ultimately ended fewer than eight points off gold medallists China (459.18), with Germany taking bronze on 406.44.

Reflecting on a milestone moment in his young career, Harding said: "I'm super, super chuffed. I've always believed in myself to make it this far. I came from a small club in Oldham, and just to be here was enough for me - but now to step on to that podium with Jack, it's amazing for me, my family and my friends.

Anthony Harding Jack Laugher Men's 3m Synchro prelim Budapest 2022
Anthony Harding (left) and Jack Laugher did not put a foot wrong in the final

"This is my first time at a World Championships, so the experience of it all is a massive one for me." 

Triple Olympic medallist Laugher, meanwhile, has now won a medal in the Men's 3m Synchro at three of the past four World Championships - and with less than a year under this new pair's belt, he feels this is only the start of what could be a very exciting partnership.

"I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't know we could come out here and achieve a world medal - but it's obviously one thing doing it and another thing actually producing it as well," he added.

"The performances we did at the National Cup in February and then the recent British Championships in Sheffield very much indicated that we are here to try to hit those top spots.

"But I'm really proud of us coming out here, at our first international meet, and actually doing that. It's very easy to be a bit rabbit in the headlights and struggle with those pressures around it, that you put on yourself and from other people as well.

"I'm really proud of what we've done today. There's definitely more in the tank for both of us. China messed up their last dive and it does show that they are catchable - and I think that with a bit of work, a bit of improvement and maybe a bit more experience, hopefully we can reach that realm." 

Earlier in the day, Eden Cheng and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix competed in the Women's 10m Platform prelims - but they were unable to do enough to make it back for the semi-finals.

Both found themselves with work to do to move up the 33-strong leaderboard after a couple of early dropped dives apiece, and time ultimately ran out as they looked to find the points to qualify through.

Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix underwater shot 10m Platform prelims Budapest 2022
Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix

Spendolini-Sirieix reached the Olympic final in this event last August, and she showed the quality and character that got her there by laying down her dive of the session last up, her Back 2 1/2 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists Pike (5253B) earning a tally of 68.80 from the judges.

It briefly had her in the top 18, only for Australia's Nikita Hains to land a solid final dive of her own and nudge ahead of Andrea, who placed 19th and missed out on the semis by an agonising 2.2 points.

British champion Cheng also saved her best dive for last, as she scored 64 points for the same Back 2 1/2 Somersaults 1 1/2 Twists Pike. By that stage, a few low-scoring efforts earlier in the prelim meant she could not catch up, and she finished 26th. 

For all results from the World Aquatics Championships, click here

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