Diving: Yona takes plunge for Jamaican ‘first’

BIG TARGET: Yona Knight-Wisdom at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in Leeds.
BIG TARGET: Yona Knight-Wisdom at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in Leeds.
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With Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake spearheading the artillery, Jamaica are a force to be reckoned with at an Olympic Games.

Hoping to join them come Rio in 2016 is Leeds-born Jamaican diving star Yona Knight-Wisdom.

Knight-Wisdom, 17, is another rising talent from the City of Leeds Diving Club which sent an amazing contingent of seven to the World Junior Diving Championships in Australia this month.

Chapeltown’s Knight-Wisdom was one of them but unlike his Team GB team-mates the teenager was donning the yellow trunks of Jamaica.

The former Grammar School at Leeds pupil was born in Leeds but with dad Trevor and mum Grace born in Jamaica and Barbados respectively, competing for Britain was not the only option.

So now Knight-Wisdom is officially Jamaica’s number one diver – their only one – but a highly- talented individual who has high hopes of competing in Rio.

Explaining his unique story to LS1, Knight-Wisdom revealed: “Diving for Great Britain is at a really high standard at the moment with the likes of Jack Laugher and Tom Daley and all the other boys.

“It could be quite hard for me to get into the team at the internationals and my coach – Edwin Jongejans – believes that I can compete at these international events to a decent standard.

“He suggested that I switch to Jamaica and now I am Jamaica’s first ever male diver!

“If I was to make Rio in 2016 I would be the first ever Jamaican diver to compete in an Olympics so there’s quite a lot of history in it.

“That’s huge and it makes me excited and a bit nervous at the same time.

“But it also makes me proud to compete for that nation.”

Explaining how diving began, the talented teenager said: “I did gymnastics for nearly four years before I started diving and in 2004, when I was nine, the diving club from Leeds came to my school and did some gymnastic tests and stuff like that.

“I was quite good at the tests because of my gymnastics background and they selected me to come and trial at the pool.

“It started from there really!”

Now the long-term goal is to qualify for an 2016 Olympic diving slot for Jamaica –- one which would almost certainly automatically become his.

The Leeds diver finished 17th and 28th in his 1m and 3m springboard events in Australia earlier this month, admitting he had hoped for slightly better, but he has time on his side.

It is, after all, four years from now when Knight-Wisdom hopes to blossom and be walking out alongside Bolt in the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics.

“That would be pretty cool as over the past four years he has been one of my idols.” said Knight-Wisdom.

“there is his whole sprinting career and everything and I look up to him when I see how calm he is.

“It’s just amazing as I can’t be as calm in events and do as well as he does. I have to concentrate a lot more!”

Not that Knight-Wisdom isn’t something of a cool character himself with the Roundhay School Sixth Form student clearly having inherited some Jamaican genes.

“You think of your typical Jamaicans to be completely laid back – really relaxed and chilled and that’s what I’m like,” laughed Knight-Wisdom, who is not 18 until next May.

“I’m so laid back – I’ll get told to do things and I’m like, yeah, I’ll do it in a minute!”

However and whenever he does achieve success, right now Knight-Wisdom is doing just fine with the articulate A-level student hoping to go to university to study a degree in sports and exercise science.

the former Alwoodley Primary School pupil wants his future to be connected with sport and sporting success clearly runs in the family.

Knight-Wisdom is the cousin of Liverpool’s rising football star Andre Wisdom though the Leeds teenager is a Man United fan.

“My best mate’s dad is a Man United fan and I used to spend a lot of time at his house when I was growing up,” said Knight-Wisdom, desperately searching for excuses as to why he doesn’t support Leeds.

“But I know Leeds have a Jamaican playing for them in Rodolph Austin and I follow them as it’s my home city. It’s hard to be a Manchester United fan in Leeds!”

Still, at least he has something else in common with Bolt – another Red Devils fan – though Knight-Wisdom has some learning to do regarding the island of Jamaica itself.

As yet, he’s never even been there.

“Because my mum is from Barbados she takes me there every two years,” explained Knight-Wisdom, whose dad owns a coach company and whose mum is an administrative assistant for Education Leeds.

“I’ve been to Barbados 10, 11 or 12 times but with dad he hasn’t left the country since he arrived here in about 1960! He says he’s scared of flying but I’m not too sure to be honest!

“I’ve never had the chance to go to Jamaica but hopefully I can go there next year.”

As Jamaica’s number one diver, expect them to roll out the red carpet on his arrival.