Sheffield’s Monique in mood for Olympic success

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Monique Gladding admits she had caught the Olympic “bug” by competing in a dream FINA World Cup meeting at the London Aquatics Centre this week.

Gladding revelled in front of a vocal home crowd to reach her first major individual world final at the venue for this summer’s Games.

The 30-year-old is gunning for a first Olympics appearance, and after proving she belongs in world-class company with her 10th place in tonight’s final is desperate to return later in the year.

“That is just something I will always remember and something to be re-lived in the summer,” she said of the support of a 3,000-strong crowd at a venue that is to be expanded to 17,500 for the Olympics.

“I’ll hold on to that feeling, that crowd behind you is the best.

“I’ve got the bug now. I loved it.”

While Gladding reached her breakthrough final, most importantly she earned Britain an extra place for the Olympics and boosted her own hopes of completing a remarkable comeback from the horrific injury she suffered almost a year ago to the day.

The City of Sheffield diver had to be saved from a pool at a Russian meeting when she hit her head on the tower and plummeted unconscious into the water during competition.

“It’s absolutely amazing. If someone had said to me 12 months ago that I would be 10th at a World Cup I would have snapped their hand off,” she said.

“But even then I’m leaving here a little bit disappointed because two of my best two dives were not quite right.

“I suppose that is a great place to be because 10th and a few mistakes in my first World Cup final - I’m going to take the positives from that.”

Gladding is not assured an Olympic tracksuit just yet though, with places to be decided at June’s British Championships in Sheffield.

Four years ago Gladding secured Britain’s place for Beijing only to then fail to seal her own berth. And she will face stiff competition from Tonia Couch, Stacie Powell and Sarah Barrow in arguably British diving’s most competitive discipline.

“In our country which is great for British diving, women’s platform is so strong,” she said.

“There’s a good few girls in there. That’s unfortunate for me, but fortunate for Britain.

“I’m really fighting hard for this.”

Earlier, Jack Laugher served a reminder that Great Britain are not a one-man team after storming into the semi-final of the three-metre springboard.

While all the focus of attention has been on Tom Daley, Laugher’s rapid rise up the international ranks continued in this afternoon’s marathon preliminary round of 59 divers as he finished fifth with a score of 458.05.

That bettered the total he managed when finishing seventh at last July’s World Championships, and after nailing his new reverse three-and-a-half somersault - one of the hardest 3m dives - it proved he has the class to challenge for an Olympic medal this summer.

“That’s my newest dive and it’s the biggest I do in the prelims. To have it go so well in front of a home crowd is an absolutely amazing feeling,” Laugher said.

“It’s quite a hard dive. It is the top-end athletes that do it. It felt so good.

“Hopefully I can continue to do that for the Olympics.”

There was good news for team-mate Chris Mears too as he virtually sealed his place at the Olympics after finishing 14th and earning Britain a second place at the Games.

It was another remarkable comeback story after Mears almost died four years ago when he ruptured his spleen in Australia while suffering with glandular fever.

After collapsing at the team hotel the youngster, now 19, was given a five per cent chance of survival and had to have the spleen removed.

He has slowly worked his way back to a position where he now looks likely to compete in the Olympics in the individual and synchro springboard.

“(This is) brilliant. I’ve come a long way from Australia where I had my accident,” Mears said.

“But now I’m back. It feels great to be here. That’s all in the past. Bring on the future.”