At six-foot-two-inches tall, Yona Knight-Wisdom was not necessarily cut out to be a diver, but the Jamaican flag-bearer continues to defy his height disadvantage in a budding career.
Despite the severe effects diving has on his body, the competitive fire that drove Knight-Wisdom to take up the sport in 2004, continues to be his greatest weapon in the fight against a stereotype that refused to let him be.
As such, each time Knight-Wisdom walks to the edge of a springboard, he is much more aware that he is required to perform beyond expectations.
So far, the 24-year-old, who started representing Jamaica in 2012, has achieved a number of historic feats and is intent on keeping the country’s flag flying for years to come.
“It has been tough every day trying to get my body into the positions that I need to, to be able to make the dives that will compete well on the world stage. I’ve been reaching the end of the training weeks and like literally struggling to walk.
“Diving is tough on my body, especially because I’m not supposed to be a diver, because I’m tall and I’m black and black people aren’t supposed to swim, that’s the stereotype,” Knight-Wisdom told the Jamaica Observer shortly after arriving at the Norman Manley International Airport on Wednesday night.
“But there are people out there who are trying to change that which is such a great thing, and I’m starting to see the benefits of my hard work. So I’m hopeful in playing my part as well,” he added.
Chief among Knight-Wisdom’s accomplishments for the black, green and gold was his historic appearance at the 2016 Olympic Games as the first diver from the island to do so.
He was also Jamaica’s first-ever male Commonwealth Games diving competitor in 2014, and last year won the country’s first ever Pan American Games medal – a silver – in the 1m springboard event in July.
After taking time off to recharge the proverbial batteries, the English-born diver, whose father Trevor is Jamaican and mother, Grace, is Barbadian, bounced back into competition late last year to kick-start the build-up to the year ahead.
“I really didn’t want to take time off, but I needed my rest because it was a tough season. But I started preseason recently, putting in harder work than I’ve ever put in before fully focused on the goal I want to achieve and just try my best to absorb all the information that my coach has given me, to just give my all every single day,” he shared.
The goal Knight-Wisdom has taken aim at is a spot on the team to the Tokyo Olympic Games later this year, and the Scottish Nationals in December offered him some degree of confidence, as he won the 3m springboard with a score of 424 points.
If Knight-Wisdom is able to replicate that performance at the FINA Diving World Cup in Tokyo in April, he will be well on his way to the global multisport event.
“We didn’t really do much preparation so it was even more raw, but that kind of score is what I’m aiming for the World Cup later on this year. It’s going to be an exciting journey, but I enjoy what I do every single day and that’s the main thing.
“It’s gonna be nervy here and there, but I trust in the work that I put in so far this season, and hopefully, I can just do what I need to do on the day and and we’ll see where that gets me. I was able to make the top 18 four years ago, so there’s no reason why I can’t do it again,” Knight-Wisdom declared with an air of confidence.
The Leeds Beckett University Sportsman of the Year for 2016 is currently in with a chance to add more accolades to his name, having been shortlisted for the RJRGLEANER Sportsman of the Year award.
Knight-Wisdom is up against track and field athletes Tajay Gayle, Fedrick Dacres and Travis Smikle, as well as squash stalwart Chris Binnie.
“That’s something that I wasn’t expecting, so I’m massively honoured to be a part of that list because I’ve seen some of the names that have won it in the past and they’re people that I have looked up to and idolised,” Knight-Wisdom noted.
“I’m not sure how the process of selection takes place, but with a five man shortlist and nine on the women’s side, it shows that the women are doing awesome things and there’s still room for improvement on the men’s side.
“But for me to be included is just awesome and I’m looking forward to attending the ceremony to see what happens,” he ended.