The host nation claimed four of the first six medals awarded in diving at the 2022 Commonwealth Games as England’s Jack Laugher won his third straight 1m springboard title and 17-year-old Andrea Spendolini Sirieix dominated the women’s 10m event.
Men’s 1m final
In the first diving final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Jack Laugher of England came from behind to seal a three-peat in the 1m springboard event on Thursday. Two-time world champion Li Shixin (formerly of China), took silver for Australia, 10 points behind Laugher, at age 34. (Laugher and Xi had finished 2-3 in this event at the FINA World Championships earlier this summer.) Britain’s Jordan Houlden captured a surprise bronze medal after leading the first half of the six-round final.
In the end, the top three were separated by 17.75 points.
Houlden opened the competition with his hardest dive (3.4 difficulty) – an inward 2½ in pike position, and earned the high score of the event: 81.60 (which Li would later match in his penultimate dive). Houlden sustained his lead through round three. But on the fourth dive, Laugher executed that same dive to launch himself into first place where he remained for the rest of the day.
"I was under loads of pressure, trying to defend that [2014 and 2018 Commonwealth] title,” Laugher said. “To do it in front of a home crowd makes it that little bit sweeter."
Unfortunately, Laugher’s greatest fan wasn’t there to witness his victory.
"My grandma passed away a couple of months ago,” Laugher said. “I was unable to attend her funeral due to the world championships [which were coming up]. The risk of Covid was just too high. Hopefully, I have done her proud today.”
For Li, the two-time world champion and 2022 world bronze medalist, Thursday’s silver marked a new beginning. “It is my first time in the Commonwealth Games, my first time in the UK, and in my first event [here] I got a medal,” he said enthusiastically. “I have three events left, which is a little bit difficult for an old man [of 34], but I’ll do my best.”
Houlden, 22, was also a Commonwealth Games rookie. And for a man who was too scared to dive into the water when he took up the sport at age 9 because he was afraid he would sink to the bottom, the 1m bronze left him “absolutely speechless,” he said. “I wasn't expecting it. I am completely blown away.”
Laugher added, “I think what Jordan has done today is extremely special. He pushed me and [Li] all the way. He's done himself proud today and it's lovely having someone alongside me now. I couldn't think of a better person for it."
Notably: James Heatly of Scotland, the 2018 bronze medalist, finished a distant fourth – 28.3 points behind Houlden.
Women’s 10m final
Showing tremendous precision under pressure, 17-year-old Andrea Spendolini Sirieix of England closed the night with the highest-scoring dive of the entire session. It came in her last dive, as the last diver of the night.
Going into it, the London teenager had a 15.40 lead over her countrywoman Lois Toulson. Both were ending the contest with the same dive, one right after the other. Toulson nailed it first, receiving 81.60 points for her back 2½ with 1½ twists. Spendolini Sirieix then executed the manoeuvre with barely a splash, receiving 9.0s from six of the seven judges to score 86.40 and win her first Commonwealth gold medal with 357.50 points. Toulson took silver with 337.30 points. Canada’s Caeli McKay – the 2022 world championship bronze medalist – tallied 317.50 points for the bronze.
Spendolini Sirieix was thrilled to win her first international senior gold medal.
"It's incredible,” she said. “I've had so much fun and I wasn't really scared. I was peaceful but on the last dive I had quite shaky calves, so I think [was] the push that I needed. I've never had that much fun in a competition."
To celebrate, she said, "I've got a hot chocolate waiting for me."
Silver medalist Toulson, who had just upgraded her 2018 Commonwealth bronze, said, "It feels good to be back on the podium.” She didn’t watch the scoreboard between rounds so she wasn’t sure how she ranked but her dives were going well enough that she thought she had a chance to be on the podium. In retrospect, she said of her final dive, “I'm glad that I put that dive last; it’s usually my safest one. I’m glad that it came off."
What to Watch on Friday
Diving will continue on Friday with three finals.
The heavy favourites to win the men’s 3m synchro event will be the 2022 FINA World Championship silver medalists Laugher and Anthony Harding. Li will return for his second event of the Games with 20-year-old Sam Fricker.
In the women’s 1m final, all three Commonwealth medalists from 2018 will return, led by Grace Reid of Scotland. They will be challenged by Mia Vallee of Canada who took bronze in the women’s 1m event at the 19th FINA World Championships earlier this summer in Budapest.
To close the night, the silver and bronze medalists from the 2022 FINA World Championships will do battle in the men’s 10m synchro final. Can England’s Matty Lee and Noah Williams top Canada’s Rylan Wiens and Nathan Zsombor-Murray again? Find out on Friday.