Olympic star Jack Laugher admits he almost retired from the diving following 'worst two years' of his life
An emotional Jack Laugher opened up on his battle with anxiety after winning a third Olympic medal in the 3m springboard.
The Harrogate diving ace took bronze in Tokyo on Tuesday morning as he bounced back from the disappointment of last week's failure to defend his 3m synchro title.
And he revealed that his success felt like redemption after "the worst two years of his life", a testing period that left him on the verge of retiring from diving.
"This [medal] means everything to me," said the 26-year-old former Ripon Grammar School pupil. "It has been the worst two years of my life.
"After the 2019 World Championships and failing to make myself a world champion, embarrassing myself with my final dive and the mistakes and the failure that I had there, it crushed me, it really, really crushed me.
"It put me in a place that was just terrible, cried myself to sleep quite a few times, had a lot of sleepless nights because I still make that same mistake.
"I had no confidence in myself, my anxiety was through the roof and I was physically scared to do the dive. It has been awful and I've hated it.
"I feel like this bronze medal is redemption from what has been such a bad couple of years. It might not be a gold medal but a medal around my neck is just the sense I'm back and I'm here and I am ready to keep going."
Laugher qualified for the 3m springboard final in third place and picked up where he left off when it really mattered, not dropping below 81 points in his six dives as he produced a best of 96.9.
But he admitted he has come close to quitting on a number of occasions this year and says he can identify with the high-profile challenges experienced by American gymnast Simone Biles during these Games.
"I wanted to quit this year, quite a few times," he added.
"I was very close. When you are good at something, I've always been good at the back reverse movements, that's why I've finished on the back three and a half all my life.
"I can't tell you hard it is going to training every single day being scared of doing a skill because you don't know where you are.
"It is so hard to throw yourself off a diving board while your heart is racing and you just don't know where it is.
"I've made the same mistake over and over again and I just thought I've had a long and prosperous career, maybe this is a sign I've lost it, I've lost my mojo and I don't know what I'm doing anymore.
"It's actually quite interesting to see a very similar thing happen with Simone Biles. I have a lot of empathy with her situation that she's in right now because I can only imagine how hard it is being for her being the best in the world by a long shot and struggling with something that she's found so natural all her life."
Laugher went on to hail girlfriend and fellow Yorkshire diver Lois Toulson, as well as his close friends and family, for their support, but says he now feels as if he is in a better place.
"I had a bit of an epiphany after the European Championship and kind of noticed what I was doing wrong," he added.
"I was focusing too much on certain techniques. Once we stripped that back and found out what it was that made me as a diver, what technique I have, my coaches let me go with it.
"We weren't chasing perfection anymore, we were just do you, be you, do what you have done all your life.
"Without Lois, without my psychologist Laura, without my coach Adam Smallwood, my amazing strength and conditioning coaches, friends and family; everyone round me has been my rock.
"I feel this completes everything for me. I feel I am back again, I feel I can take this confidence moving forward, now it is a time I can try and be the best version of me, I can be. I hope I will sleep OK now. I need it."