Road to Rio: Usain Bolt’s new buddy is making a splash for Jamaica

Jamaican diver Yona Knight-Wisdom in training at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in his home city of Leeds.
Jamaican diver Yona Knight-Wisdom in training at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in his home city of Leeds.
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LEEDS-born Yona Knight-Wisdom knows competition is fierce in British diving; so much so that he switched allegiance to Jamaica.

The 20-year-old readily admits he is not even the best 3m springboard diver at his club.

Leeds diver Yona Knight-Wisdom who has just qualified for the Olympics. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Leeds diver Yona Knight-Wisdom who has just qualified for the Olympics. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Jack Laugher takes that mantle, with Knight-Wisdom confidently expecting his 21-year-old team-mate to challenge for a medal at August’s Rio Olympics.

Relaxed Knight-Wisdom will be happy with a photo alongside sprint king compatriot and new pal Usain Bolt.

Knight-Wisdom comes from the all-conquering City of Leeds Diving Club that has five divers heading for August’s global spectacular in South America.

But while Laugher, Chris Mears, Becky Gallantree and Alicia Blagg will fly the flag for Team GB, Knight-Wisdom will link up with Bolt in raising the colours of Jamaica.

The Leeds Beckett University student qualifies to represent Barbados through his Barbadian mother Grace Knight but also Jamaica through his father Trevor Wisdom, who runs his own coach company in the Leeds suburb of Chapeltown, where the diver lives.

Yet it is aeroplanes that now feature high up on Knight-Wisdom’s agenda following a stunning performance at February’s FINA Diving World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

The former Grammar School at Leeds pupil needed to finish in the top 18 to gain Olympics qualification yet went 16 places better to secure a silver medal.

But the world no 27 says he will leave the Olympics medal charge to world No 5 Laugher with Knight-Wisdom taking a rather different view. The diver had been sizing up qualification for Rio ever since switching to Jamaica in 2012 and admits that, for him, it is already a case of mission accomplished.

“It’s actually quite amazing that the whole plan has come together,” Knight-Wisdom told The Yorkshire Post.

“Back in 2012, I was just looking forward to the World Cup in 2016 because I knew that was my main opportunity to qualify for the Rio Olympics. For me to dive that well at that time it’s just mind-blowing.

“Now it’s just about enjoying the journey from here to the Olympics, training hard and getting the dives ready that I am going to compete with.

“I don’t know whether I will upgrade my list to make it more difficult or keep it the same.

“I’m not sure how much Jack will be worrying because I think me and him are not necessarily competing against each other in terms of what we are aiming for.

“I’m aiming to just enjoy the event, he’s probably aiming for a medal because he’s that good and he’s proved it at the last couple of world championships.”

Having already qualified for the Olympics, Laugher sat out last month’s World Cup where Knight-Wisdom exceeded all expectations. Not that sporting success should be such a surprise considering the diver’s cousin is Norwich City’s Leeds-born Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom.

“It was all about just getting that 18th spot to qualify but I just had the competition of my life,” said Knight-Wisdom, who is coached by Edwin Jongejans.

“Dive by dive, it was some of the best dives I’ve ever done in each direction. Everything felt so easy. I felt like I was on another planet.”

He knows the competition will be considerably tougher at the Olympics, and a stark reminder will be provided when he joins in the opening ceremony alongside Jamaica’s sprint king Bolt.

Thanks to his appearance at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and a common love for Manchester United, the duo have already broken the ice.

Knight-Wisdom explained: “At the Commonwealths, he was talking to me a little bit about diving and briefly about Manchester United. We are both big Man United fans so we had a little bit of a conversation about that which was pretty cool.

“He got to know me a little bit and I went out to Jamaica later that year as well and saw him train out there.

“I think he vaguely remembered who I was which was phenomenal for me. It will be nice to see him again and, hopefully, I can get a picture with him!

“To be in the same team as him, to walk out into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony at the same time, it’s going to be all my dreams coming true.”

Harrogate-born Oliver Dingley will become the first Irish diver to compete at an Olympic Games since 1948 after finishing within the qualification zone at the Diving World Cup in Rio.

Dingley booked his ticket to Brazil after placing 11th in the 3m springboard competition.

Requiring a top-18 finish, the 23-year-old scored 415.05 points to progress to the semi-finals. He went on to finish 15th overall.

In 2014, Dingley, 23, switched allegiances to the country of his grandmother’s birth to better his chances of reaching Rio.