Making Gains with Radzi ep 14 - Team GB's first EVER , Olympic Diving Champion: Jack Laugher video transcript

Go, Go, Go,
I’m a bad man
Yeah buddy
What’s causing all this
I shook up the world
I am that damn good!

Radzi: Hello and welcome to hello and welcome to Making Gains with me Radzi, in association with Finnebrogue Naked Bacon, the biggest revolution to happen to British breakfast in a generation, and the University of Derby where they make it real. Now today's guest is such a fascinating individual, such a successful human being in the form of an Olympic sport, and that Olympic sport is diving. He is a three times European champion, a five times Commonwealth games gold medallist, he is an Olympic bronze medallist, silver medallist and gold medallist. I'm talking about jackpot Jack; welcome to Making Gains sir.

Jack: Hello.

Radzi: Mate, first things first can we talk about the thing that is currently around your neck: your Olympic medal?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, no this is um, this is a special one. I've got my other ones right here as well.

Radzi: Amazing dude!

Jack: This should probably have an introduction or everything, um yeah now this one is um yeah, very special to me.

Radzi: And you just casually brought into frame your Olympic silver medallist, Olympic gold medal. What do they actually mean to you mate?

Jack: Um, do you know looking at these ones, these ones are from 2016 and looking at these Olympic medals um, they, they pinpoint a part of my life that was um, me on my rise in my career you know. I’d only won a couple of different things here and there, um and these were the first major major medals that I’d really won, um and I think they, they kind of started my career. When I look at these, I think that that was when I was a lot younger, a lot more inexperienced. Um, and then we flash forward now, to 2021, when I’ve got this Olympic bronze. And it may not be the colour of the gold or silver but for me this one has been, um, so much more hard work. When I look back at these, it was almost… not easy, but so much less stressful than what this one was, and the um, hurdles that I've had to overcome to get to this one have been mentally harder in comparison to these two. So, um, they all mean different things but for me they, um, they're all very special.

Radzi: Okay so let's go back to Rio then. Rio, AKA the green pool. I’m not sure if anyone remembers that, when the actual water was actually green. When you got off the plane and landed in Rio what were your expectations?

Jack: Do you know what? It’s weird because I just talked about how easy it was in comparison but actually, if you go forward four more, or backwards four more years to London, I had a really bad Olympic Games, so my expectations were just trying not to make the same mistakes that I did in London. Um, at the World Championships the year before I got two bronze medals which I was really happy with, um, at the time I was only 20 years old, um. My expectations weren’t, uh, weren’t to get these medals, really, I wanted to just try and do better than I did in 2012. Um, however when we started training, and we were diving alongside the Chinese and the Russians; our main
competition, I could see that you know, we're in with a shot here you know, we look good, we're strong, we're doing really good dives - we’re actually doing the hardest dive in the world, at the time the first people in the entire world to compete together when we won the gold medal. So, I was kind of looking around thinking you know, we’ve got a shot at, at least a medal here, and maybe even more and um, yeah. On the day it just panned out, yeah that green pool, some people freaked out about it; and me and Chris, I remember, we were just there like, ‘meh’, you know, whatever. It is what it is we’ll deal with it, and it’ll be fine, and actually, it seems to help us loads.

Radzi: At what point did you think that you were in with a shout? Was it kind of during the official practice as it were, or was it actually when you were competing?

Jack: Um, well I mean a bit of both, I mean actually looking back on it now, um the Russians were our main competition aside from China, and we’d beaten them at the Europeans which they always win. It’s their major event of the year, the Europeans is where all their funding comes from, and we beat them. Um, so we felt like we’d already actually beaten them at the Olympic Games after bearing them there, mentally, um and then it was just China. We were looking at China, we thought, you know, it’s not the best pairing in the entire world um, but obviously when you’re doing, when you’re diving you don’t want to think about ‘oh my God I can win this’, you want to be obviously concentrating on what you’re doing, that’s all that you can concentrate on and what you can change. However, it does creep into your mind a little bit and especially after Tom and Dan won their bronze medal, um and I got to hold an Olympic medal for the first time, like ‘wow, this could be us in a couple of days’ um and yeah, that really helped me as well.

Radzi: So, when you and Sam are together, who, who literally calls the shots in the sense of when you’re on the platform, who’s the one that gives the count for you to go?

Jack: Uh, well Chris is, uh, he was the one that did the countdown so he would say, “ready” and I would say, “yeah”.

Radzi: It was Chris Mears, it wasn’t Sam, yeah.

Jack: Yeah, Chris Mears was, uh, he would say, “ready” when he was ready to go, and I would confirm that I was ready to go and then he would count and then we’d walk down the board together and that was it. Um, but yeah, so that’s changed in my current partnership, I am now the person that says, you know ready to go. Um, it seems to be in diving, the more experienced person is the one that does the counting. Um, however it really doesn’t matter to be honest with you. It’s just whoever feels, uh comfortable and confident enough to be able to say that whilst having to concentrate on other things as well at the same time.

Radzi: Is there a different feeling in terms of anxiety and nerves, and everything else when you’re with somebody else versus on your own?

Jack: I think it really depends on how strong the team is, um, you know when I was diving with Chris, we were best friends. We were living together, we’d cook together, train together, we pretty much did everything together really. Um, so we ere almost like one, and um you know when you’ve got someone beside you that’s, um, an amazing diver and an amazing athlete, an amazing friend, you, you don’t feel that, that sense of nerves because you have so much trust and faith in your um, team, and the ability of everything that’s going on. Plus we have two fantastic coaches so it’s very hard to feel um, unconfident, because of how much experience was around you and how much trust and faith was around you. Um, whereas it’s been, I’ve had a lot of changes in my, um, my life over the past five years since Rio. We have changed coaches and we’ve had a new partnership come in and it kind of shakes everything up a little bit and that takes a while to build on, um, so towards the start of my new synchro career with Dan in 2018, it wasn’t quite as easy as it was when me and Chris started up. Um, however, we worked on it really hard and we got some great results together, so it honestly depends on all the work that you put in outside of the sport as well as all the work you put in inside the sport.

Radzi: Before we talk about things technically, just going back to London, because I think it’s so easy to look at certain failures and say we brush those to one side, but how tough was that to deal with a home Olympics where the eyes of the sporting would in this country were very much on diving in the sense you had a few faces – Tom Daley was one of them, so the eyes of the world are kind of on you to then hear the atmosphere and to hear your, the ovation, when they say your name, how did you deal with that, what you would describe as possibly an underachievement?

Jack: Um, I deal with it really poorly, you know… it’s one of these things that it’s not, I guess it’s similar to trauma in a way, um and I had grief around the competition as well afterwards because a home Olympic Games is something that happens only once in an athlete’s career, if ever. And it was so special when I was 17 years old, with 17,000 people watching in the London Aquatic Centre, I remember looking up and they were all cheering me pretty much. You know 95 percent of them were British and that was very overwhelming, and I can actually remember very little because I think that my mind has to just erase so many memories because it wasn’t good. I can just remember, the only thing I can really remember about it was looking up at the crowd when they called out my name, and this huge roar and I thought, like, almost like, gulped and took a step back and thought, ‘wow’. I’ve never heard anything like that before, um, and when you’re on a board that’s, you know, 50 centimetres wide bouncy board, and you’re nervous, with your legs and everything like that, and you’ve got 17,000 people cheering for you it’s something so extraordinary – because you know, in diving we have 300 to 500 people maximum watching us usually, um, and it’s very surreal to be in that kind of situation and I just didn’t take it well. I did a terrible couple of dives and my final dive, I knew I wasn’t going to make the semi-final, so I threw my routine out the window. I didn’t really listen to my coach, I kind of just thought, I got into the adolescent youth mindset, ‘I don’t care, I’m just going to do what I want here’, and I went up to the board and my knees buckled so I put too much, like, too much through my legs and they didn’t push me back up, I didn’t complete my dive and I, I just fell in basically that was it, so my Olympics…

Radzi: That’s what it was, I didn’t know that

Jack: Yeah, no, it was terrible leading up to there anyway, um, and then the final dive, the sick dive, I um, I failed the dive and I remember, I do remember getting out and just crying instantly and I ran off through a door I wasn’t allowed through, and everyone was telling me “you know you can’t go through here”, and I was like, I don’t car, like in my Speedos in this little corridor just crying, I was so upset but I did learn from that was that even when things are going poorly, to never just give up on the process and the routine that I go through. And it took a long time to process but I learned a tremendous amount from that and you know I blanked it out for a long time, I had a little bit of fear at competing at Olympic level as well, and I made myself watch the performance from 2012, um, before I competed in 2016, so I could kind of I get-guess over it and understand it – watch it and process it form my eyes currently when I was, you know, five, four years older, um, and uh it took a while but it seemed to work out, you know, everything that I did seemed to help and um, that’s why I have these two medals here I think. I, I like to say that my failures from 2012 helped my success in 2016 and beyond.

Radzi: You know I’ve had therapy, and uh, one thing we spoke about in therapy was perception and projection, and if we take you in that moment when 17,000 people are cheering for you it’d be very easy to perceive that it as, ‘I now must get gold otherwise they’ll be disappointed’ and therefore I’m projecting that perception onto the world on onto even my own psyche, my brain. Whereas, having just been at the Olympics and having seen a number of performances where, in rowing, for example, there were six fourth place finishes. When you’re gutted, you’re not gutted as in you have let me down as a fan, a spectator, all you feel is you want the best for that person and because they happen to wear red, white and blue and have a Union Jack, I might not even know that person’s name but I’ll think go on mate, you know, we’re proud of you, you’re representing us, and as long as you give it everything, people like you. But yet, when you’re, when you’re a teenager mate, and you’re stood there, and your first experience of that is, I mean, I just can’t imagine how exposed and alone you must have felt at that time where really what you needed was someone to put their arm around you metaphorically and to kind of say, right this is going to be like nothing you’ve experienced before, our aim for you is to get through six clean, whatever, and that’s it, rather that whatever it was that it turned into, because that, that could have been almost post-traumatic stress for the rest of your life

Jack: Yeah, no, it took a long while to heal from the wounds that London 2012 had left on me, um, and it’s weird because what you talk about there is exactly how I felt, you know, when I felt the roar of all those people, all I thought in my head is they expect me to do well, and I had had a little taste of success before that, we’d had a, um, test event that was before the Olympic Games in the Olympic pool to make sure it could all run smoothly, and until the last dive I was in bronze medal position at the age of, I was, just turned 17 at this point and I tried a new dive out, it didn’t quite go as, as well as I’d hoped but I was really still proud of myself, I think I finished in eighth place in the end, um, but I was still proud of how I did, so leading into 2012 I had put this expectation on myself that weirdly, maybe I could get a medal potentially and then when I heard that roar and that huge Team GB wave of you know, cheering and, and clapping and everything that I just never heard before. It sounds exactly like what you were just saying there that I perceived that they wanted me to, they expected me to do well, and expected me and almost had confirmed my um, ideas and thoughts that I’d had in my head and um and year at 17 years old that was hard. And then with how badly it went, um, I was so embarrassed, I didn’t want to show my face anymore, honestly going into the pool the next day to go and… Chris Mears made the semi-final, and we were both diving an individual, and he was my best friend then as well, and going to the pool to support him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do because I had, and honestly now I look back at myself now and I hate it, I had jealousy, I was bitter, I was angry and I was embarrassed, and I think that it’s so hard to deal with when you, when you’re that age, and you’ve, as you know, I wasn’t the best teenager either. Um, and yeah that was just a really, really difficult point in my life but I feel like you know, I had a lot of work with the psychologist that we, that we’d employed through British Diving and that really helped me understand what happened, um, and to try and make that negative experience into a positive experience. But it was hard, it was really difficult.

Radzi: Yeah I bet it was mate. And you mentioned, um, sort of new skills that you’ve learned or trying out a new dive. What’s the process of going from, we’ve conceptually got an idea, to then eventually executing it in the actual water itself? Because I’ve seen the harnesses get used and um, kind of like a cylinder where you’re almost harnessed onto a cylinder which will be rotated for you to practice your opening times and stuff.

Jack: Yeah, yeah so, we, we have a, I don’t know in diving there’s, there’s, it’s not like gymnastics where new skills are invented really, there’s um, you know, there’s, there’s the different shapes, there’s tuck, pike, and straight, and there’s, it’s a different somersaults and different amount of twists, how you do that skill doesn’t really matter. If you end up doing four and a half somersaults, um tucked, no matter how you really do it, it will always be a four and a half somersault tucked. Now, when, so people in gymnastics, you know, if they do a half twist early and then a half twist at the end, that’s a different skill to if they did a half or a full twist at some point throughout the entire skill, right. So that’s what I was trying to get across with that. However, with these skills, usually as you progress through diving you start going through the basic trend of you start doing an extra somersault and then you’ll change tuck to pike, and then once pike has been achieved you’ll do an extra somersault and so on and so forth, so it kind of just, like, resets each time. But you are right, yeah, we use the harnesses um, we have you know, we’ve got a lot of experience in our country on teaching kids, um, and adults as well, new dives and that comes from work within the gym as well, getting stronger. And we do harness work in the dry land as well, so we’ve actually got the, the dry bouncy boards, bonded crash mats, and we’ll have, um, a rig system where you’ve got a cylinder around your waist and then two ropes going up either side, you’ve got a coach who pulls it up and down, which basically means that they can rotate you and you can practice what that feeling would be like, um, but yeah. And honestly, you know one of the good things we have actually, as well, is we’ve got like a big bubble system so they put the bubbles on and it agitates the surface and creates froth almost, so when you go in it’s not like hitting still water. If you do go wrong it’s kind of frothy and bubbly so it almost doesn’t hurt quite as much. It still hurts a little bit, but you know it’s a lot better that what it, um, what it would be if you’re just on, on, flat water.

Radzi: And what determines which discipline you go for? Because when the layman thinks of diving you just think diving is diving is diving, whereas I presume the set of skills at three meters are totally different to 10 meters, are totally different to a springboard.

Jack: Yeah, the um, when you’re younger you do, most people do both boards, um, most people will grow up and they’ll be doing the warming of the three meter and the platform, un, and then are usually around, like, adolescent stage, uh, maybe around the age of 16 or so when, when your body starts to transform, when you either start to go through growth spurts, or, and you start to bulk out a little bit more for example, that's when you can really tell which way someone's going to go. Now for springboard, it's more kind of, to me is, is when your, your legs start getting bigger and stronger because at the end of the day springboard diving is just about how far you can push a board down so you can jump as high out of the board as possible. Obviously, you've got the form elements to it and the entry into the water and everything, but the more height you get, the easier the dive is because you've got more time and platform divers are kind of more strong around the upper body because you hit the water at 35 miles an hour from 10 meter, and all you've got basically are your hands to guide you through the water and you've got to have strong forearms, strong wrists, strong shoulders, strong everything really and, and diving is very similar. The skills are transferable but I like to say it's kind of like, the, my analogy is kind of like the 200 and the 400 meter running.

Radzi: Okay.

Jack: Is that the thing you're running, but they are different, they're very, very you know, 200 meter, a good 200 meter runner doesn't necessarily mean a good 400 meter runner.

Radzi: Yeah.

Jack: Um, it's uh, they're very similar, so the skills are the same on 10 meters; they do four and a half somersaults forwards on three meter, we do four and a half somersaults as well. Um, however they are different sports within themselves and a lot of people say that 10 meter is really hard to practice and very easy to compete, and a lot of people say that springboard, the springboard is very easy to practice, and very difficult to compete then that's because in springboard there's so many, there's a moving board that you've got to deal with along with nerves and when things go slightly wrong on springboard it can cause catastrophic events really. However, on platform, because it's not moving and you're just taking off it's a lot easier to get a more consistent take off and therefore hopefully a more consistent dive.

Radzi: That makes total sense because you're essentially reducing the variables…

Jack: Yes.

Radzi: Within the platform, so it's, I guess, there's a, if I turn up and compete in Russia or the North Pole it's going to be very similar to competing in Ponds Forge, Sheffield, versus the springboard. I mean is there sort of stiffness variations around the world?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, you can, I mean every board goes all the way there. The little thing that you put your foot on, the foot, is called a fulcrum - the um, little cream kind of coloured wheel.

Radzi: Yes.

Jack: Um, that adjusts the stiffness of the board, however even when a board is on full flex all the way back to nine, it's, an experienced diver can tell that this board is slightly tighter, this board's slightly looser, this one gives a little bit more bounce back, this one stays down for longer. They, um, they make a mould and then they make three boards out of the mould, and usually the second board is the best one, um, and it, it, just depends, you know, which boards you get. Like at the Olympic Games we'll go to Tokyo, and we'll test each one and we'll be like, okay this one's too soft for me, or this one's too stiff, or this one's too this and that and this, almost like um Goldilocks.

Radzi: [Laughter]

Jack: So, we use our board that we like and hopefully your synchro partner likes the board next to you as well

Radzi: And so, with that are you somebody who's meticulous when it comes to, are you almost anal with detail, or are you, you, just happily turn up and just do whatever you need to do?

Jack: Um, I'd like to say I'm fairly flexible. Um, there's obviously things that I do, like in an ideal world I'd get to an important competition and have the ideal board for me and it's really hard to describe because it's just through feel, it, it just feels good to me. Um, and also the spatial awareness of the pool and stuff, um, sometimes I can just feel a little bit off, um. But for me I, I'd like to sound fairly flexible in the fact that I can adjust what I'm doing a little bit, um, within some sort of, uh, a degree of difference really. There's, um, there's obviously some things that I won't accept but yeah, I mean I'd like to say I'm fairly flexible with that, with how I compete and how I train.

Radzi: And mate, if we go, if we do go to Rio, obviously which was an unbelievable success. One of my favourite questions to ask people is not what your, if you like, your favourite, uh, achievement is in sport, but actually your favourite perhaps, five seconds, so for you when you get gold or when you get silver, was it the moment you came out of the water that was that moment? Was it hugging your partner, was it seeing your loved ones, was it standing on the podium and singing the national anthem, what was that five seconds where if you could almost relive that that would just be the ultimate?

Jack: I mean it would be, it would be the moment that we realised that we'd won, that would definitely be the most… we were, we were diving number five and China would dive in number seven, and we were already in the lead after our final dive, so we've gone to number
one so we knew we were at least number two because China still were the only people that could overtake us and they would dive at seven, so we watched diver six go and I remember saying to Chris, I said to him before the Chinese, when I said, do you know what I'd be, I'd, I'd settle for Olympic silver, I remember.

Radzi: [Laughter]

Jack: It's odd, like it was just some sort of some, something that happens every day and I couldn't believe what I was saying, and our coach said it's not enough, and we were waiting, like, it felt like five minutes, it honestly and it was probably no longer the 30 seconds we were waiting for the scores to come up, but it felt like the longest period in the entire world and when we saw them come up in rank three, that means we had won, and instantly I’d say this five seconds from seeing rank three, I jumped in to Chris’s arms and I just cried and cried and cried because we'd achieved everything, we'd achieved the dream since we were seven years old, um, all our hard work had paid off and those, I think, I think it all came crashing down very quickly, that this has happened and this is the best moment of my entire life.

Radzi: And when you eventually get home like normally people talk about, Matthew Pinton, in fact, talks really openly about the depression that he felt after an Olympic Games. Is it different when you're living with the guy who's got the medal as well or is it surreal? What is it like walking back through the door?

Jack: Well yeah, the initial part was great, you know, it's, I was, I guess, I wasn't really anyone before that and, um, nobody really knew who I was or what I did. But obviously because it was one of team GB's first gold medals of the games, yeah it was dives first ever gold medal, um we became not superstars, but you know, overnight people knew who we were. Especially people from our area where we were living in Leeds and so going back was great fun, you know. People knew who I was, they were asking for photos, it was very very, fun but at some point, Chris went on holiday, and Chris left where I was, and I was in the flat by myself and I got a, I don't know, I mean it's very hard to deal with when you're 21, you've achieved your lifelong dream, where'd you go from there first of all? But then also because I wasn't used to people knowing who I was, I grew very uncomfortable with it very quickly and I didn't like the fact that anymore that people could know who I was, and my mind started giving me anxiety around, like, oh this person's looking at me do they know who I am? Do they? All I'm trying to do is get my bread and milk or whatever from the supermarket, I really struggled with that and I think it was that point when I realized maybe I'm not cut out to be, you know, we had offers to go on I'm A Celeb and Strictly and stuff like that and I was just thinking in my head, like maybe I'm not quite yet cut out to be a celebrity, and I got a tremendous amount of social anxiety around going out and being out and about and people knowing who I was and, I don't know it was really hard to deal with, especially because Chris had gone on holiday and was enjoying himself.

Radzi: Right.

Jack: Um, I struggled because I was by myself, and I was on my own and I didn't want to turn to my family because why would I turn to your family say, I’m, mum I'm struggling, when I’ve just won two Olympic medals, like, it's really hard to do that and really hard to talk about that. Um, however, now I feel like I've changed massively because I've been through that and now, I feel like I can talk about it and I can express what I, how I’m feeling to the people that need to know about it. Um, but it was really hard to deal with. And you know, I think that, when I was 21 years old, and I had achieved that dream, we actually had the conversation with my psychologist and my, my, coach, and I said, where do I go from here? Do I, do I quit, like, because I've achieved what I wanted to achieve for my life, do I continue, do I, do I stop, do I? I don't know, it's really hard to know what to do, um, and you know we, we, carried on and I'm so glad we did, um, but yeah, after the Olympics it was really hard, really, really difficult coming back down to earth and, um, and feeling different than I did before I went out.

Radzi: And actually, it wasn't just a feeling I guess in your sort of post-Olympic journey. It's been unbelievably challenging the last five years in terms of you trying to become the diver that you once were and losing your skills and going through all that.

Jack: Yeah, no, yeah, it's been honestly, there's been some, some, mega hurdles that I've had to face, um, since, since Rio. Um, I had my first diving related surgery, um, and actually this is one of my crowning moments of my career actually was um I had this surgery that didn't heal as well as I was hoping for, and when I came back it was taking a long time to heal up, and I remember it was just before the Commonwealth Games, we had a cut-off date and we said look, um it was ankle surgery which said, if you can't do the skills you need to do because of the ankle by this date, it's off basically. And the Commonwealth Games was something after, um, Glasgow, I won two golds and a silver there, I really wanted to try and go win three golds, it was really important to me and, um, I thought it was my best shot of getting three gold medals at a Commonwealth Games that I might, may ever have. And I remember, one of the biggest hills I overcame was that on the very final day, it was about two weeks before we flew out to Australia, I managed to do a backward jump literally just standing on the board backwards and doing a backward jump for the first time in five months.

Radzi: That was it, just doing that?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, honestly because, because, of the way that my ankles flexed I had so much pain in the front of my ankle and I couldn't do it, and me and my physio, we just taped my ankle up my leg, basically so that my ankle wouldn't move. It physically couldn't get into that position that hurt me anymore, that was the idea. We thought there's no way I can do it without the tape, um, there's no way I can even do a back jump normally so we'll just basically make sure you can't squat into that position, and you'll have to deal with it. So, I had two weeks to prepare for Commonwealth Games and I came out with three gold medals, and that's one of the crowning moments in my career because we were doing other skills in the pool and stuff, but I physically couldn't even jump off backwards two weeks before leaving so that's one of my biggest like, I don't know, hurdles that I've overcome. However, even bigger was after the 2019 when I’ve almost failed my last dive, um, similar to the Olympic Games in 2012, um, at the World Championships, and I lost all cognitive ability and spatial awareness and had no idea where I was in the air and it's so hard to describe to people who, who don't do, um, gymnastics or diving is the fear that strikes you when you are spinning through the air, and you, you cannot even comprehend if you're up or down, uh, left or right you have no idea where you are, and then at some point you have to kick out - you can't just stay in your tuck shape, you kick out and it's in the completely wrong place and you land flat on your back when you're expected to win your first World Championships. That was so hard to deal with, and again I cried and cried, and it was really, really, difficult I still got a bronze medal because that's how well I was doing, I could almost fail my last dive and still get a medal. And that's almost harder in a way because I’d never won a World Championship gold, and it was something that I've always wanted, and it would complete my set of every single major title. Um, and that was really hard to deal with, but um, the thing that was the hardest to deal with was afterwards it kept happening, that same mistake the same feeling of I, I don't know what I’m doing and then you know the negative thoughts creep in, the anxiety around the skill, the fear of the actual skill itself, um, the doubt that you have in yourself which I’ve never experienced before, I’ve always been so confident in myself, um, just everything that's tied around that that skill basically, and not wanting to come to training anymore and you know I make, I make progress, I start feeling like, okay, yeah, maybe I'm getting somewhere and then all of a sudden it happens again. And there's only so many times that you can build yourself up and be crashed back down to square once again, that before maybe you think, maybe this this is, maybe it's run its course, maybe this is the end. And then Covid happened, so we had five months out of the pool, so then all I'm doing for five months is thinking about this skill, and I'm scared to do the Olympic Games because I'm like, well, if I do it again in the Olympic stage you know that, that might, may define who I am forever afterwards um, an Olympic failure rather than an Olympic champion which honestly it played with my head so much and I remember not being able to sleep because I'd be, I'd be dreaming about it and I’d have almost like night terrors thinking about the skill. I'm just dozing off and I'd be doing this skill in my head and then, bang awake.

Radzi: Oh wow.

Jack: It was so, so hard and I didn't want to talk to anyone about it for quite a while because I felt like I was accepting defeat if I talked about it, and I talked to my psychologist about it, and I've talked to my coach about it and, um, it still kept going on and that was the hardest thing, was, I finally overcame talking about it, and it still put like, I still decided, yeah, I’m going to keep doing this, my body just wouldn't let me do it correctly. And it took me until the Europeans in 2021, about two months before the Olympic Games when I did it again at competition. It took me until then to have a bit of an epiphany; a bit of a, a realization that maybe we're looking in the wrong direction, um, and maybe I just need to go back to basics again and, um, really start from a clean slate and we did that and almost overnight it seemed to help. I got a little bit of confidence back and I haven't felt that confidence in quite a while, and it still happened at training, but it happened a lot less.

Radzi: Okay.

Jack: And only it only happened when I started – stopped, I stopped concentrating on the things I needed to and started thinking about other things so it started going really well, and I think oh, I really want to do a really strong kick on this one, and I would only be thinking about a strong kick, I'd forget about the other things and it would go wrong. Um, and it actually happened eight days before I competed as well in in the Olympic Games in Tokyo but because of the lessons I'd learned, I realised this isn't, it's, it's not defining me right now, it
doesn't define my training, this is just a lapse of concentration and that's all it was. And we got back on the board, I'd calm myself down and it was fine and then in the Olympic Games it was one of my best dives and that, overcoming that hurdle for two years of self-doubt, anxiety problems, confidence issues, um, fear of competing, just everything, overcoming that and having this medal around my neck now is, is I would say the crowning moment of my career today.

Radzi: It's quite remarkable that and thank you for sharing it with me. Is that we see you sat there with your Ben Sherman shirt on looking amazing, you've got your medal. But you'd think bronze medal that's the one that you probably go, like Steve Redgrave, for example, he's got five golds, one bronze, and he often says no matter how much I shine that bronze it doesn't turn into a gold whereas in terms of what's that, what that means the context, the journey, actually you can see why, obviously, an Olympic gold medal is the dream, but does your bronze signify something more than just perhaps a flawless performance?

Jack: Yeah, yeah, you know, and I wasn't I, I delete social media whilst I'm away on competitions, um, because I feel like people can say things, um, in one second and it can ruin your entire day. And, um, opinions and views are so much more easily seen now than they were 10, 15 years ago. And, but I had heard that some people, I shan't name any names, but I've heard that some people have tweeted and said that you’re no Olympian if you don't get Olympic gold; you're a loser essentially because…

Radzi: Are we talking about that same, it’s a presenter by any chance?

Jack: We, you are talking about that person, yeah. And that's something I don't agree with because I'd also seen that they said, um, you know, no one dreams of Olympic bronze but when I was growing up because the only medal really in my lifetime they've been winning in diving was a silver, all I ever dreamed about was being an Olympic medallist. When I was 10 years old, I didn't really care about the colour, and obviously, like, if I could fine-tune that dream of course every medal that I would win, and every medal I've ever dreamed of would be a gold. However, when I was growing up as a kid the gold wasn't the thing that spurred me on, it was the idea of making the Olympic Games and also potentially being an Olympic medallist, so I, that's something I don't agree with. Anyway, however you are right this bronze, you know, I have won gold medals in my career, but the bronze, it doesn't really matter about the colour, it's about the journey, and it's about what you overcome as an athlete. Potentially for some people you know, competing is, is super easy and they're just so natural about it, and it's for me, it's always been something that I've had to struggle and learn with. And, um almost every competition that I've done, my first version of that competition has been terrible, in 2010 at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, I hit my feet on the board. Um, in 2012 my first Olympic Games I failed a dive, in 2010 my first World Cup I failed the dive as well. So, it's almost like every single time I’ve had to, I've never been natural at doing stuff like that, it's always taken time to, to, um, to build into the process that it is today. Um, but yeah you are right you know, the, the, the Olympic bronze for me, it doesn't matter, it just it signifies something much greater than, um a flawless performance and six perfect dives. It signifies to me that the journey that I have come, albeit very rocky and with many hurdles, um, has now almost been completed and now it's time for a new chapter in my life, and hopefully I can learn, um, a lot from Tokyo and use the lessons that I have been taught to move forward with my career, and continue on the upward trajectory to hopefully get more medals and, you know, be lovely for them to be gold as well, but you know I'll be happy with, however I do no matter what now.

Radzi: Well mate, also touch on what you're saying is, so that, that guy there, he's a Shakespearean agitator, it's his job to try and basically rile people up, and get, get people kicking off.

Jack: Yep.

Radzi: And who, who's an easier target than people working in Olympic amateur sports who are trying their best to do something. And for me it's a total misinterpretation of what sport is if somebody thinks it's all about getting golds. Because my grandad lost his leg in the second World War, and he passed away 20 years ago now, we never saw anyone that was disabled that was celebrated, just didn't happen. Fast forward to London 2012, I remember and I'll admit this, I saw a group of people and they were basically laughing at somebody that was, that was a dwarf, and I was ready because I immediately thought of my granddad, I saw red and I thought I'm just gonna go apoplectic and I actually jogged into this group of people and I realised as I was getting closer, they were laughing because they were nervous and they were nervous because they couldn't believe they were meeting a Paralympic gold medallist. And it actually made me emotional, I actually had to turn away because tears were coming down my face because I thought we've come that far that it's gone from, you'd look at somebody like that and potentially try and make fun of them, to now we're celebrating, and in awe of them. I think that's the power of sport, the power of sport can be that you take someone like Anthony Joshua who had a tag around his ankle who was, essentially had the life of criminality ahead of him, he was now a multi-multi-millionaire, internationally known, revered a millionaire and that's all come through discipline of sport. Now admittedly you did get gold, but for someone to think that the sole objective of sport is gold, is just to miss the whole thing. Because winning is a part of it and winning is what ultimately memories that will go into, stay with me for a lifetime – Michael Johnson, Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell. But actually, to me it's also about journeys, to me it's about overcoming, to me it's about what it represents. And, and actually a bronze medal, you're now sharing a story which if you hadn't overcome those things, you'd be Jack the amazing diver. Now you're Jack who's overcome, who can, is relatable, and who someone might look to and say, well hang on, if Jack's overcome this mental weakness as it were, maybe I can as well. Maybe I can get over this sense of depression or whatever it might be, and that's to me so much more than an Olympic gold medal.

Jack: Yeah, yeah, I mean that was very well put. Um, I think that there's, you know, there's such an emphasis on, on winning by quite a few people but you know there's just 30 people in a diving competition and there's not just one winner and 29 losers. Like, that is just the wrong way to put it. I've got a lot of friends within the sport and other sports as well that, they may never get onto the medal podium, however, that doesn't make them a loser. They go out there and they try their best every single time, and for them stringing six dives together which they can be proud of is a huge victory within itself. And just making an Olympic Games for some people is, and for me as well, people making Olympic games is a victory. And the goals that we set ourselves along our careers and achieving those goals, they’re victories as well. And I think that's what's beautiful about sport, is that you know you can set small, little goals that are achievable and they create the endorphins around victory and, and being triumphant and there's just some amazing athletes, um like you said Anthony Joshua, you know, and he recently has lost a fight, and that is okay because he's in in himself, he took the loss and he learned from it and he came back even stronger. And a lot; losing is a part of winning and losing is a part of sport. And some of our greatest sporting heroes in our country and around the world have had major disappointments as well, and that's all part of sport, you know, if the person that you expect to win always wins what’s the point? Boring, you know, but we do have triumphant people overcoming huge amounts of adversity and amounts of, I don't know, problems and everything, issues personally, um, mentally, physically. Um albeit, you know, problems with the law, problems with family, problems with disability, problems with, like, previously in years, years back, problems with race, problems with gender, all those things that people overcome to become an Olympian to be a World Cup finalist in football or anything like that, people overcome it, and that's what's so powerful about sport is that no matter what you do, who you are, you can be a victor, you can be triumphant, and you can be a champion.

Radzi: Right, Jack, everyone's going to be thinking this who listens to this, when are you going to be on tv either as a pundit, as a presenter, as a broadcaster, as mate you're so articulate and that normally, especially in an individual sport where you're ultimately trying to overcome every element of your body which says I'm 10 meters up, I should probably not hurtle myself off this concrete structure. So, what, do you think you want to do that long term?

Jack: It, honestly that would be something I would adore to do, um, I think that it's something I'd love to explore now, you know. I feel like I've done three Olympic Games, um, Paris coming up in 2024, three years’ time - I'm definitely trying for that one, but I am very aware that I am coming towards the end of my career at the grand age of 26. I feel like I am, I used to love the phrase, um, Drake said it, what was it, oh, he said I'm the rookie and the vet, which for me really stuck with me for quite a while when I was younger because I’ve been around the scene for so long. I was still young, I was still a bit of a rookie, but I've been around for so long that I was a veteran diver at the same time, now I’m just a veteran and a veteran, that’s it. Well, I see the youth coming up and, um, it scares me, but you know I’m really excited for that. And I think that hopefully I can make Paris, and hopefully maybe even LA, but you know I think that that's definitely something I'd love to explore and try and find an avenue to, to, to be a part of because I'd love to be able to share my story and, but also, I love talking. Who am I kidding? I enjoy talking, I enjoy sport and, um, it would be something that I would love to do.

Radzi: Would you do anything like I'm A Celeb or Strictly or - now that you've kind of, you're in a different headspace?

Jack: Yeah, I mean I had, I had the full offer for I'm A Celebrity in 2016. Um, I and, I was the number one choice, um, to go on and I turned it down because I wasn't there, I wasn't there mentally, I wasn't ready for that, and I knew that my life changed overnight basically, um, and I just wasn't ready for that. I was scared, I didn't have the confidence in myself, I also didn't think of myself as a celebrity either, I kind of had this weird, weird idea that I was just, just a regular guy doing my job. I didn't think of myself as ‘I'm a celebrity’, I see all the people that go on, I know 99 percent of them all the time and I just don't think I fit in that category and honestly
still not sure if I even do. However, if it came to me now, I’d like to think that I would take that opportunity and I would try to dive into something new and something scary and to be honest with you fear was the only thing that was holding me back last time because you know, um, I think Sam Quek was a person that ended up going on in 2016 over me and she's done fantastically, and she's made a career and I'm sure that she was nervous going onto it as well. However, I look at her and she's done a fantastic job and really made something of herself, made a career after, um, becoming Olympic gold medallist, so yeah, that's something I'd love to explore in the future as well, but you know, right now I'm just chilling at home enjoying myself and, um, thinking about Paris as well.

Radzi: And what's next for you in terms of comp wise?

Jack: Um, next up is, we've got a really, really good opportunity. We have Birmingham Commonwealth Games next year, which is home Commonwealth Games, so hopefully Covid restrictions are lifted, and you know, everything's going to be okay and, um, I'm hoping that the English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Ireland public will all get behind their respective teams. ‘cause it's really interesting at Commonwealth games we don't compete as team GB, we compete as the four different home nations which is strange, um, but it's really, really nice. It means more athletes get the opportunity to compete as well and, um, it means that obviously in the Olympic Games is just two people per event, the Commonwealth Games is three, but also you can have Scottish athletes diving, Welsh athletes diving, so there's loads of people participating, which is really, really good fun - so that's the biggest one probably next year. We also have the World Championships as well, which is you know, I guess in terms of sport, in terms of funding, the most important, but, um, yeah, we've got quite a few big gigs, but honestly you know with, with everything going on right now in Covid and stuff, I think schedules are a little bit iffy and, um, you know, we'll just see what happens because obviously right now we all know as a nation, we all know as the world, but things can change overnight so, um, yeah, just preparing for that, and keep myself to myself at the moment and just enjoying friends and family time really.

Radzi: Well Jack, fingers crossed. It would be an incredible completion to your set if you were able to do the business at the World’s, although we kind of said that it's not all about goals and then…

Jack: Yeah.

Radzi: I'm at the West Mids. seeing you dive at the Commonwealth Games would be special. So, mate, thank you so much for your time and watch this space because I think your journey, even after you retire, is going to go like that, so thank you very much dude.

Jack: Thank you so much mate, I really appreciate it.

Advert: Naked bacon, one day all bacon will be made this way.

Making Gains with Radzi ep 14 - Team GB's first EVER , Olympic Diving Champion: Jack Laugher video

Back to Episode Fourteen