The proud father of Olympic gold medal winning diver Jack Laugher said his son’s tears of joy put to bed painful memories of a heartbreaking experience at the London Olympic four years ago.
Laugher jumped to gold alongside City of Leeds partner Chris Mears in the 3m synchronised springboard on Tuesday night to win Britain’s first ever Olympic diving gold medal.
The pair won Yorkshire’s first medal of the Rio Games and Laugher can still double his medal collection in the individual 3m springboard next week.
“It feels a bit unreal,” said Laugher’s dad David.
“I am immensely proud of his and Chris’s achievement. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer two boys.”
Laugher’s golden moment was in stark contrast to his first Olympic Games four years ago when he exited the London Aquatics Centre in tears having slipped off the board in qualification.
The 21-year-old broke down in tears again in Brazil but this time it was in joy when the final scores were announced at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre.
David, who watched the final from his Littlethorpe home near Ripon, said: “I can understand why that happened. You imagine that he has been backing that up for the last four years.
“2012 has been and gone now. We won’t be talking about that again. He was a schoolboy then and he has matured now.
“When they knew they had got it, it all spilled out. He couldn’t hold it in. Chris was smiling and laughing and Jack was on the floor in tears. He’s a typical Laugher!
“I am pleased I stayed here because I was a nervous wreck and he gets a bit stressed when I am at competitions. There was just me and our dog Alfie, that’s how I wanted it to be.”
Helen Mackenzie, Laugher’s former PE teacher at Ripon Grammar School, sat with mum Jackie and sister Katie at the outdoor aquatics venue in Brazil.
The family were guests of the British School after the 3m synchro event where Laugher and Mears joined them in their celebrations.
Mrs Mackenzie said: “It was a chance in a million that the boys would join us but these boys have family at their heart and what’s the only thing you want to do when you’ve won an Olympic gold? Get a hug from your mum of course. It was beautiful to witness and be part of the love as Jack embraced first Jackie and then his sister Katie. “Everyone here is walking on air, thrilled for our boy.”
At 21, Harrogate-born Laugher is still one of the youngest 3m springboard divers competing on the world stage. He made his breakthrough at the 2010 World Junior Championships when he won gold as a 15-year-old diving prodigy.
However, his progress has largely been in the shadow of close friend Tom Daley, who attended the Beijing Olympics at the age of 14.
The partnership of Laugher and Reading-born Mears only took off two and a half years ago when the pair began training together at the John Charles swimming centre in Leeds.
But they had instant success by winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games as well as picking up medals on the prestigious Diving World Series.
The Leeds pair won the European Championships earlier in 2016 and approached the Rio Games as likely medal contenders.
Julian Smith. MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “It’s an incredible result for Jack I know he has trained incredibly hard. Lots of people will take heart with his achievement.”