By Brenda Goh
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Jamaican diver Yona Knight-Wisdom hopes his uncharacteristically large frame will not only help him stand out amongst his competitors at his first Olympics but also enable him to win by making as small a splash as possible.
Standing at 1.89m (6’3″) tall and weighing close to 90kg, the first male diver from the Caribbean island to qualify for the Olympics is at least 20cm taller than the slight Chinese divers who dominated the London 2012 Olympics.
While he sees his height as a disadvantage that prevents him from spinning as fast as other divers, his weight allows him to propel himself higher from the springboard and execute the harder dives, he told Reuters by phone from the United Kingdom.
“The main thing I have to my advantage is that I’m able to get a really clean entry into the water, so I make very little splash,” said Knight-Wisdom, who competes in the individual three-meter springboard event.
“I’m just to keep it really, really simple and just try to get the most consistent performance because I feel like people will make mistakes.”
The British-born 21-year-old, whose father is Jamaican and mother from Barbados, now counts himself as a professional athlete after competing his Sports and Exercise Science degree at Leeds Beckett University, in May.
Sponsored by British-Jamaican musician and sauce maker Levi Roots he chose to represent Jamaica after struggling to get into the British diving team.
Jamaica has only had one other Olympic diver, Betsy Sullivan, who participated in the 1972 Games in Munich.
In the run-up to the Games, Knight-Wisdom said he is training for at least 25 hours a week with only Sundays off.
While he’s keeping his eye on the final and clinching a spot in the FINA/NVC Diving World Series next year, his main goal is to enjoy the occasion, he said.
Still, he admits, his presence holds greater significance in breaking down stereotypes about divers.
“To see an African-American diver kind of at the top level in this sport, there’s very few of us,” he said.
“Some people do still get shocked when I do say I’m a diver.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)