England swept the gold medals in the two men’s synchro events on Friday, led by Jack Laugher and Anthony Harding on the springboard, and Matty Lee and Noah Williams on the platform. In between, Canada’s Mia Vallee, won the women’s 1m event with two of the toughest dives in the contest.
In three diving finals held Friday at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the favourites didn’t disappoint.
Men’s 3m Synchro Final
In the men’s 3m synchro competition, Jack Laugher not only won his second gold of the Games, but he also scored another Commonwealth three-peat, this time with Anthony Harding. The English duo, fresh off a silver-medal performance at the 2022 FINA World Championships, had far and away the highest degree of difficulty on their four optional dives (of six), so it all came down to execution.
“We solidified ourselves in the first couple of rounds,” Laugher said, “and then I made a few mistakes but overall, really pleased. The feeling of winning is extraordinary, it's the reason why I do this.”
Harding, 22, said, “I'm over the moon. I've worked so hard for this. It's been a massive opportunity for me. I've watched [Laugher compete] at three other Commonwealths, three Olympics. He's had so many gold medals. I just copied everything he did. It's like copying my homework from the smart kid."
The only pair among the five in the field who threatened Britain’s victory had a disaster in the penultimate dive. Malaysia’s Chew Yiwei’s feet hit the board just before entering the water (on a reverse 2½ with 1½ twists), dropping him and his partner, Tze Liang Ooi, from second place to fifth. Not even their best dive in the final round (a forward 2 ½ with two twists) could pull them out of last place.
Instead, silver went to the second Malaysian pair, Gabriel Gilbert Daim and Muhammad Puteh, who scored 376.77 to trail the winners by a 61.56-point chasm. They had been diving together for about six years.
"It is our first medal at the Commonwealth Games and our first medal together,” Gilbert Daim said. “We didn’t expect anything, it was very emotional.”
Australia captured the bronze – marking a second medal in two days for 34-year-old Li Shixin and his 20-year-old partner, Samuel Fricker who has 1.5 million followers on TikTok.
Fricker said “Shixin is the coolest man ever, super chilled. He pulls me into his bubble of relaxation and focus. I find that really helpful. He pulled me aside before that last dive and said, ‘stay calm, hold it together and execute’ and that’s what we did.”
Scotland’s Ross Beattie and James Heatly placed fourth.
Women’s 1m Final
In the women’s 1m final, all three women from the 2018 Commonwealth Games podium returned to defend their medals but three different divers took all the medals. The heavy favorite, Mia Vallee of Canada, won with two well-executed dives with a 3.0 level of difficulty or higher, including an inward 2 ½ with a 3.1 DD that garnered the highest score of the competition (65.10).
Vallee, 21, finished 12.25 points ahead of runner-up Brittany O’Brien of Australia, and 19.85 points ahead of the 18-year-old bronze medalist Amy Rollinson of England.
Vallee has had quite a summer. Last month, she captured the bronze medal in 1m event at the FINA World Championships and a silver in the 3m competition.
“The countries that beat me [at Worlds in the 1m] – China and the US – are not here,” Vallee said, “so that put a lot of pressure on me that I wasn’t expecting [and] that I didn’t have at the world championships. But that [world] medal gave me a lot of confidence… that you can do this, you do deserve to be here. That’s what I kept telling myself over and over again today: I deserve to be at the top. I can do it.”
Rollinson, who kept England’s medal streak alive in Birmingham with her third-place finish, called the bronze “a bonus,” explaining that “I sprained my ankle about three, four weeks ago then I got Covid as soon as I got back from the world championships. I was not doing hurdles for two weeks. I've been gradually building the confidence to land on my ankle again. I was here for some experience because it's my…third proper international ever.”
The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Grace Reid, placed fourth, less than four points off the podium. After the Tokyo Olympics last summer, she said, “I wasn’t enjoying the sport at all. On a personal level, it was a really tough time. Getting back into diving is really a testament to the people around me. I wouldn’t be here without them. I’m just a happy human being before anything else.”
Men’s 10m Synchro Final
The men’s 10m synchro final lived up to its billing, as the same pairs that went 2-3 at the FINA World Championships this summer ended up going 1-2 on Friday. Matty Lee and Noah Williams pulled out the victory on the very last dive of the night and the hardest one on their list (a forward 4 ½ that carried a 3.7 degree of difficulty). It was even more dramatic because Williams was clearly limping after their fourth dive.
Turns out, the pain was problematic even earlier in the contest.
"After the second dive both me and Matty had pretty bad cramp,” Williams explained. “It just got worse and worse to the third or fourth dive when I pretty much couldn't walk. I had to get some electrolytes in, I had a massage between each dive. It's still bad now. I think it was the adrenaline [that led to victory]. The crowd was really loud, which is not something that common in diving."
Lee added, “This is what I do diving for. You don't get better than this. That wasn't luck out there, that was pure skill – but we are lucky to get a gold in front of a home crowd. I'm ecstatic. In the Commonwealth Games I have never done exactly what I wanted to do. I missed out in 2014, had a rubbish Games in 2018 but I am so happy me and Noah have just smashed the synchro and got gold."
Canada’s Rylan Wiens and Nathan Szombor-Murray took silver, scoring 413.85 points, 15.93 behind the victors.
Australia’s Domonic Bedggood and his new partner Cassiel Rousseau took third. It was Bedgood’s third consecutive podium in this event. In 2014, he won gold with Matthew Mitcham. In 2018, he took bronze with Dec Stacey.
What to Watch on Saturday
Three more diving finals will be held on Saturday, starting with the women’s 3m synchro event featuring Australia’s Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith who took bronze at the 2022 FINA World Championships.
Next, the lone men’s final will be on the 3m springboard where Jack Laugher of England will try to win his third gold in three events this week.
To close the night, Malaysia’s Pandelela Pamg, 29, will aim for her fourth consecutive Commonwealth podium in the women’s 10m synchro event, this time with Nur Sabri.