"It's been a rough ride": Inside Jack Laugher and Anthony Harding's struggle to nab Olympic spot

Jack Laugher and Anthony Harding had to be true ‘warriors’ to bank Olympic qualification at the first attempt.

A gladiatorial mindset was needed to stave off a hellish string of injuries that assailed the seamless progress of a springboard partnership that has not missed a podium since it came together in 2022.

Laugher has a ‘terrible knee’ issue that is far from resolved, while Harding picked up two major injuries over the winter. This pair are so synchronised that they even get injured at the same time.

“It's been a rough ride for me,” said Laugher. "So it's difficult - but we are athletes, we got through it, we're warriors and we've done our job."

Paris 2024 quota places are available to medallists in synchro events at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Laugher and Harding quickly got daylight on bronze and their fifth dive, a Forward 4 1/2 Somersaults Tuck, was the highest-scoring in the round and cemented silver.

They finished with 424.62 points, 31.71 behind immaculate Chinese pair Wang Zongyuan and Long Daoyi but 35.52 ahead of fast-rising Frenchmen Jules Bouyer and Alexis Jandard.

Job done, and tickets punched for Great Britain at next summer’s Games.

“It's been a very emotional day with some dropped dives here and there, but we're really happy overall,” said Laugher. “There are still some things to improve on.”

It felt like a particularly significant step for Harding, given his physical struggles and relative lack of experience on the global stage.

Harding said: "I've been quite stressed about the situation, about qualifying. But the difference from last year for me was I've grown up a lot, I feel like I'm a lot more experienced now, I'm happy with the dives I do.

“I've had the injuries, I've come back and I'm maybe not as strong as I was last year, but to put in a performance like that with Jack is amazing."

Heading into an Olympic year, the pair will have a quota place and two World Championship silvers, a European title, Commonwealth gold and World Cup silvers against their names.

Laugher said: "It's a massive weight off our shoulders. It means we can have a proper pre-season, we don't have to rush into that competition (February's World Championships in Doha), because it's so early in February. That causes quite a bit of stress and knowing that's your last chance saloon can be quite difficult," added Jack.

“For me and Anthony, we've not talked too much about it, we don't want to make it into a bigger deal than it is but we've both been stressed and it's a really difficult thing, especially when you've got the French also getting a medal which knocks one qualifying place off today's competition.

"Luckily for me, this is Olympics number four and I've never had to get to that position before, so I'm really happy to have done it today.”

Sportsbeat 2023