AGED just 17, Jack Laugher finds himself at the pinnacle of his sport with a spot on the Team GB diving squad for a home Olympic Games, writes Ric Sumner.
But the teenager has worked too hard to rest on his laurels and is determined to build on all the long, lonely hours in the pool that got him to the top.
Harrogate-born Laugher got a taste of Olympic excitement when he attended the official kitting out event at Loughborough University, and admits that suddenly the Games are looming ever closer.
“Two and a half or three weeks ago when we were actually told we were going to be a part of the Olympic Games, that was absolutely amazing, but coming to get our kit and trying it on it really makes it feel like it’s happening,” said Ripon-based Laugher, who will compete in the three metres individual event.
“It’s less than a month away and it will be the best experience of my life.
“The Olympics is such a big competition, it’s the biggest competition in any athlete’s life, really. It is the pinnacle and I’ve reached it at a really young age and I’m very happy about that.
“But to actually be in a home Olympics and have a huge British crowd behind me will be amazing and I can’t think of anything better than competing in the Olympics in my home country.”
Despite his tender years, Laugher already has big event experience from the Commonwealth Games in India two years ago, the same year he claimed World Junior gold – becoming the first Brit to land the prize in the process.
After securing his place in the Team GB squad with a personal best at the British Gas Diving Championships last month, Laugher revealed the dedication that has driven him.
“It’s very hard to balance my studies with my diving,” he said.
“I have half-days every single day at school. I get up at 7am for that, and then get to the pool in the afternoons and evenings and train for four or five hours, and then get back.
“By that time I’ve got no time to do anything at all – I literally just eat tea and get into bed. It is really hard but everyone around me does really help – my coach, my friends, my mum and dad, my schoolteachers.
“Whatever people say about me I don’t take it as pressure, it’s great that people are praising me, it makes me feel proud that some people think I might be pretty good in the future. That makes me happy and motivates me to try to be that and get better so I can prove them right.”
Laugher also has the backing of Olympic legend Peter Waterfield, who will compete in his fourth Games this summer when he partners Tom Daley in the 10m synchro event.
Waterfield is predicting big things for Laugher and teammate Chris Mears, who will go up against each other at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park, saying: “I think they have a great chance. They’re both great divers but it all depends what happens on the day. Whoever holds it together the best and stays composed will be in with a chance.”
• Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week took place from June 25 to 29 and is Britain’s biggest school sport event with more than four million pupils staging their own Games this year.
Find out more at lloydstsb.com/london2012