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Yona Knight-Wisdom becomes Jamaica's first Olympic diver

INSPIRATION: Yona Knight-Wisdom

AFTER RAISING his head above water following his final dive on Sunday (Feb 21) at the biennial Diving World Cup - an Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro - the next few seconds seemed like an eternity for Jamaica's three-metre springboard representative, Yona Knight-Wisdom.

The electronic scoreboard flickered to life and his tally for six dives was scored at 397.90 points. That wasn't only enough to get him the 17th-place spot in the standings, but also one of 18 semi-final spots - a guarantee of a place on the platform at this year's Olympic Games.

The usually reserved diver burst into tears as confirmation came that he would be heading back to Brazil this summer to represent Jamaica in the three-metre springboard diving competition, at the same facility that he competed last weekend.

It's an accomplishment that the 20-year-old, who will become the island's first Olympic diver, hopes will inspire the nation as he looks forward to the August 5-21 Games.

"I think that it should inspire people to try new things. Don't be limited to what is normal and what is safe. Don't be afraid to go against the odds. I am a 190-cm tall, 90-kg heavy, black diver,” he told The Gleaner in an interview shortly after his qualification.

“Watch a diving event and that is not something you will see very often. I've gone against the odds, with the faith and support of my family, coaches and teammates, and I've succeeded.

"I think the history of it will really sink in during the Games. Right now, I'm concentrating on today's (yesterday's) semi-final and still worrying about the dissertation I have to write and hand in on the 27th of April. All the messages of congratulations and support have made it feel incredible," he added.

Born in England, Knight-Wisdom began diving in 2004 after being spotted through a talent-identification programme.

"I remember watching the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, just after I got involved in the sport, and saw Leon Taylor and Peter Waterfield win a silver medal for Great Britain in the 10-metre synchro. From that point, it was always my dream to compete in an Olympic Games," he noted.

After struggling to break into the British team, Knight-Wisdom took the advice of his coach to represent one of his parents' countries of birth.

He decided to don the colours of his father's country, and first represented Jamaica in 2012.

GAINING EXPERIENCE

“From that point, we set the goal of using various competitions to gain experience, so I would be in a realistic position to qualify a spot for the 2016 Olympic Games," he went on.

Qualify he did. As the youngster pointed out, it did not come without its fair share of challenges and sacrifices.

"This process, especially in the last four years, has required much sacrifice, particularly of my socialising time, lots of commitment and discipline," Knight-Wisdom said.

One of his biggest challenges have been to balance his Olympic dream with his studies at Leeds Beckett University from where he is expected to graduate this summer.

Knight-Wisdom said he is looking forward to continuing his preparation ahead of the Games, where he will be going headfirst towards his ambitions to represent the country to the best of his ability.

"I aim to enjoy the experience as much as possible because it's not often you get to go to an Olympic Games. But in the competition, just giving 100 per cent diving, to the best of my ability, and representing Jamaica as well as I can over my six dives," he said.

Diving events at the 2016 Olympic Games will take place August 7-19 at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre.

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