FORMER Olympic silver medallist Leon Taylor is backing teenage diver Jack Laugher to be the surprise package at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Laugher underlined his growing reputation at the European Championships in Eindhoven earlier this month as he returned a personal best of 475.75 to finish sixth in a world-class 3m springboard final.
The Ripon Grammar student has already competed at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 and also at the World Championships in Shanghai, finishing eighth at the later and achieving a qualification place for Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games in the process.
While all of the attention has been on poster-boy Tom Daley in the build-up to the Games, Taylor is convinced the relative obscurity Laugher has enjoyed thus far in his fledgling career will be a major benefit ahead of the Olympics.
“Jack Laugher has been very impressive at such a young age; the springboard event is one that people normally work their way up to with a bit more experience,” said Taylor, who is a Lloyds TSB ambassador.
“So for him, at such a young age, to be doing so well is a major achievement in itself and bodes well for the future.
“He has been excellent this season and his target of making the final at the Olympics is a good one to have and I think he can do it.
“This summer is probably a bit too early to talk about Jack as a medal contender but there’s no doubt in my mind that it won’t be long before he is.
“He has already been at finals in major championships which is fantastic experience for a 17-year-old.
“And if he can produce his best dives on the day then that could be the different between finishing towards the top of the final table.”
Other Olympic sports have thus far been the focus of London 2012 but Taylor is backing British divers to hog the headlines come July.
“We’ve come away with two golds at the European Championships, one in the women’s, plus Tom’s performance as well so that’s fantastic in an Olympic year,” added Taylor.
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“We are building momentum all the time as a squad and with the benefit of home advantage on our side as well it could be an exciting summer ahead from British diving at the Olympic Games,” said Taylor.
“No-one is guaranteed gold at the Olympics, even if your name is Usain Bolt, but if you can bring a bit of momentum with you that can only be a good thing.
“But it’s nice to see the British team as a whole doing well, meaning all the pressure doesn’t sit solely with Tom Daley.”