The searing heat of Queensland’s Gold Coast will be a world away from the biting cold of a snowy winter’s day in Ripon – but Jack Laugher hopes that reconnecting with his sporting roots will bring him more silverware in the Commonwealth Games.
Laugher, who alongside Chris Mears, became the first Briton to strike gold in diving at the Rio Olympics in 2016, was back in Yorkshire to visit the school where it all began.
Now 23, it’s not long ago that Laugher was focusing on exams in a sports hall rather than examinations of a different kind from a 3-meter springboard.
And at Ripon Grammar School, there are plenty of wide-eyed kids looking to grab a word with the Olympic hero and get their hands on a medal that most can only dream of winning.
Visiting the school on behalf of Team England’s official partner, npower, Laugher’s mind is immediately transported back to the formative years that, ultimately, played a key role in his future success.
“My teachers here helped me so much when I was at Ripon, they would help me organise my work alongside my training while I was at High School.”
“It’s funny it all comes flooding back,” he says. “The smells, the corridors, there’s a lot of memories in this place. I haven’t been back here in five years but coming back and walking around makes you very glad of what it gave you – some of the best times of my life took place at this school.”
Roll of the teacher
Laugher was already well on his way to establishing himself in diving when he walked through the doors of Ripon Grammar, having taken up the sport at an age when most kids are pretty pleased if they can manage a length of the local pool.
“I started diving when I was at Primary School,” he says. “My teachers here helped me so much when I was at Ripon, they would help me organise my work alongside my training while I was at High School.
“Did that think I was slightly crazy wanting to be a diver? Ha, I think some of them did but I was a clever child and had quite a lot on my plate when I was training and studying.
“I’m sure some of them would have just wanted me to stick to my schoolwork but a lot of them, the vast majority of them, were very proud at what I did.
A strong network
“To this day I’ve still got a lot of them who still follow my career and follow my progress. It’s really nice to come back and show the medals I’ve got, show them what I’ve achieved and also talk to them about experiences as well.
“It’s very hard to pick out a single teacher but everyone here has played a key role in my career. My chemistry and math’s teachers were also hugely into sport which was fantastic too.
“All my diving coaches have played a massive part as well. As a sportsman, you need that support network and I’ve always been lucky to have that.”
It’s hard to top Olympic gold but dishing out a lesson to the rest of the Commonwealth in Queensland would make some teachers in Yorkshire very happy indeed.