Lemme start this post by bigging up my ‘cousin’* Yona Knight-Wisdom, who created history as the first man to represent Jamaica in diving at the Olympics. He was the only Caribbean representative in Rio, and but for two bad rounds in the semis, would have been on his way to the finals right now. Yona, you have done us proud. I know you’re disappointed, but be sure that you have a bright future ahead and Jamaica is excited for you. I hope you stay the course and continue working towards Tokyo 2020. The experience you have gained in Rio will only help you.
I must also big up Jamaican born British entrepreneur Levi Roots, the Reggae Reggae Sauce king, for sponsoring Yona. Thank you for helping this young man’s dream come true. I don’t know if he has any local sponsors, but if not, I’m sure his performance in Rio has already led to some business calls.
The last time Jamaica had a diver at the Olympics was 44 years ago when 16 year old Betsy Sullivan created history as our very first participant in this event. I know we’ll be seeing more of Yona, but going forward, I hope he won’t be Jamaica’s sole diver at the Olympic Games. There is absolutely no reason he should be. We have many young men and women here with great potential for professional diving. They fearlessly hurl themselves from the cliffs and trees at Rick’s Cafe in Negril and the pier at the Downtown Kingston waterfront on a daily basis. All it would take is some hardcore training in proper form and technique to get a few of them in shape to launch themselves from springboards and platforms into a rippling pool.
I know that such a programme would require pools of money, so I’m hoping that Yona’s historic appearance and outstanding performance will convince corporate Jamaica to give it a go. And do we even have a governing body for diving? All I’ve been able to find is a Facebook page for a Jamaica High Diving Association, but that hasn’t been updated since 2011, so I don’t even know what’s going on there.
I hope that by the end of this year, steps will be taken to put at least one springboard (let’s start with the 3m) at the National Stadium pool. This way, we could encourage Yona to come here more often (ICYMI: he was born, lives and trains in Leeds, England) and hold workshops with our aspiring divers. And since the pool is already outfitted with a platform, maybe we could also try luring some coaches or former athletes in platform diving to do the same.
It will take a lot of time and money to develop a cadre of professional level divers, but it can be done. There is now someone to look up to in the event, and sometimes, folks just need to see it to believe it. Jamaica has a proud history at the Olympic Games, but it has been limited to the track. We’re a people who love to break down barriers and create history, and we’re never satisfied until we’ve established ourselves as the best of the best. We’ve already got that going on land, so why not push it further and see if we can establish some form of dominance in the water as well?
*No, Yona and I are not related, but I’m claiming him as family. :p