Laugher inspires Britain's divers to best ever finish after intense tussle with Russia
Even without their biggest star Tom Daley, Great Britain enjoyed their most successful European Diving Championships ever with Jack Laugher dominating the action with two golds and a silver at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.
The fact that the host country could still be involved in a tense battle for supremacy with Russia while triple world champion Daley takes a break to be with his new family provided proof of the unprecedented boom in British diving.
Russia just sneaked ahead of Great Britain in the medals’ table after the final event when Aleksandr Bondar (RUS) won the men’s 10m platform, the event in which Daley is reigning world champion.
The Russians finished with five golds, four silvers and three bronzes (12 medals) compared to Britain’s four golds, five silvers and one bronze (10). But the British were awarded the Championship Trophy as the most successful team overall across all placings, showing their strength in depth.
Laugher’s double gold in the 1m and 3m springboard events was the more impressive individual performance. The 23-year-old Briton just missed out on a third title when he and partner Chris Mears, the reigning Olympic champions, were beaten to the 3m synchronised gold by Russia's Evgenii Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov.
Zakharov and Kuznetsov had to settle for silver and bronze respectively in the individual 3m springboard, while Kuznetov won another bronze in the team event. Bondar was the best Russian performer, finishing with two titles in the individual 10m platform and men’s 10m synchro.
Scot Grace Reid, competing in the Edinburgh pool where she first learned to dive as a youngster, produced the most dramatic finish of any competition, grabbing gold from fellow-Briton Alicia Blagg in the women’s 3m springboard with a spectacular fifth and final dive.
Reid, who also won a silver in the mixed 3m synchro, said: “I think Great Britain is really becoming a diving nation. We are winning medals left, right and centre which is fantastic.”
Britain’s LoisToulson, gold medallist with Eden Cheng (GBR) in the women’s 10m synchro, also went close to a golden double when she finished second with Matthew Lee in the mixed synchro 10m platform behind Russians Iuliia Timoshinina and Nikita Shleikher.
It was surprise that Russia’s leading female diver Timoshinina did not pick up more medals than her gold in that event and silver and bronze in the women's 10m synchro and mixed team respectively. The Russian surprisingly failed to qualify for the final of the individual 10m and was not satisfied with her overall results.
But the Russians and British did not have everything their own way.
The biggest shock was produced in the women’s 10m platform where Dutchwoman Celine Maria Van Duijn grabbed the first gold for her country since the dominant days of Edwin and Daphne Jongejans in the springboard events in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Germany’s 17-year-old Lou Massenberg emerged as a name to watch in the future with two medals - gold in the mixed 3m synchronised and silver in the mixed team event.
Massenberg’s compatriot and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Patrick Hausding, one of the oldest competitors at 29, battled with aches and pains all week and finally just managed a bronze medal in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard with Lars Ruediger.
His words afterwards summed up the plight of a veteran in diving. Asked how he felt, the German said: “I will find out only tomorrow when I will not take the painkiller medication that is on my plate tonight.”