Jack Laugher and Dan Goodfellow won Great Britain’s first medal of the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in South Korea on Saturday night, clinching silver in the Men’s 3m Synchro.
Delivering a magnificent performance under immense pressure, the pair, who have only been working together for ten months, also secured Team GB a spot in the event at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
To secure second place at the World Championships is a remarkable feat in itself, but to secure the first aquatics spot for the 2020 Games is a special milestone. Whilst their individual quality was undeniable, having both won Olympic medals in Rio, putting together a successful partnership was always going to be a race against time, one which they ultimately won.
Starting well, they were up on their score from prelims after two rounds, amassing 97.80 points, but only sat sixth, with China one spot and one point behind after a rare mistake on their second dive. Despite their third round dive being slightly out of sync the judges were in a very generous mood across the board, scoring the Britons’ Inward 3 ½ Somersault Tuck (407C) at 80.58 to leave them in second place at the halfway mark behind the hosts, South Korea.
Getting better as the competition went on and the degree of difficulty increased, round four saw the Leeds based pair take the lead as South Korea dropped their dive. However in the penultimate round Laugher and Goodfellow were pushed into third as favourites China and a wily Mexican duo pulled a rabbit out the hat.
The Brits remained calm however, delivering a beautiful Front 4 ½ Somersault Tuck (109C) with both poise and panache to bag 86.64 points, their best score of the competition, to secure silver. China ultimately took gold with a 439.74 point haul, with the Mexicans taking bronze.
Having qualified fourth the pair stepped up to the plate when it mattered most in the final, with Laugher saying:
“Job done! I mean this year has been a bit ropey for both of us - we’ve had some good highs but real lows as well, so to do that here, qualify that Olympic spot and get a silver medal, it means the world to us. This is Dan’s first World Championships medal and my first World silver as well, so for both of us we’re really pleased.”
“I knew we were capable of doing it but actually putting a performance together is something we’re really proud of – it’s unbelievable really. We’ve had a lot of bad performances throughout the World Series and maybe without them we wouldn’t have achieved what we did today. Qualifying a space for the Olympics is amazing.”
Earlier in the day Kat Torrance had finished a fantastic fourth in the Women’s 1m Springboard, the Leeds based diver in contention for a medal throughout.
Having qualified 10th from the prelims on the opening day of action in South Korea, Torrance produced an impressively consistent series of dives, her best coming in the fifth and final round, a 54.60 point Front 2 ½ Somersault Tuck (105B). That left a nervous wait as the rest of the divers completed their series, but in the end she fell just 1.8 points short of a podium place.
Whilst fourth can be a bitter pill for some to swallow, Torrance was pleased with her efforts:
“I’m actually really happy with today’s performance, having qualified 10th and then finishing fourth. It’s always a bit agonising when you’re only two points off a medal but at the end of the day it is what it is and I’m actually really happy with how I dived.”
Torrance will return to the pool alongside Grace Reid for the Women’s 3m Synchro and looking ahead to that added:
“It’s always nice to do a competition before your main one, to get the cobwebs off and get used to the environment; it’s a really big pool and quite loud so it’s good to get used to the environment. In the 3m synchro if you finish in a medal position you get an Olympic spot, so at the end of the day I guess that is the target, but we’ll only get there if we get our heads down and dive the way we dive.”
It was also a case of so close but yet so far for Noah Williams and Robyn Birch as they finished fourth in the Mixed 10m Synchro final, just two points shy of a medal. With fourth often described as the worst position of all to finish in, it was mixed feelings for the Dive London duo, a strong performance seeing them occupying the bronze medal position until the final round. A steady series of dives meant they’d done everything they could, but the Mexican pairing of Marie Jose Sanchez Moreno and Jose Balleza Isaias pulled out all the stops with a stunning final dive to snatch the final medal.
With both Birch and Williams having aspirations in the 10m individual events, they were reflective of their efforts in the Mixed Synchro event, which isn’t an Olympic discipline.
“The Mixed Synchro is always fun and a chance to get into the competition mind-set right before our individual events”, said Birch.
“The timing is a lot harder in Mixed Synchro and a lot of the dives we do I don’t have as part of my individual list, so I have to chuck a couple of new dives in there. But it’s good to get out in the pool - it’s my first World Championships so it’s great to get a bit of experience before the individual event.”
Over at Yeomju Gymnasium Kate Shortman was also in final action in the Women’s Solo Technical event, the 17 year old artistic swimmer making her first global final at senior level. Delivering a performance she could be proud of, Shortman finished 10th with 83.9548 points, just outside the personal best she set at the European Junior Championships just a month ago
86km further south in Yeosu the Marathon Swimming got underway with the Men’s 5km event, which saw Gordon Mason take to the very calm open water. The youngster, contesting his first World Championships, was in the lead pack throughout, but was unable to navigate the bunch to contest for medals in the finale, having to settle for 42nd place, just 38 seconds down on the winner.
Sunday sees more Artistic Swimming, Diving and Marathon Swimming action, with James Heatly in action in the Men’s 1m Springboard final.
Full results from the FINA World Aquatics Championships can be found here.
You can catch all the action live on FINA TV