Reggae diver is out to emulate Bolt

Leeds’s Yona Knight-Wisdom made history as he became the first Jamaican diver to compete at a World Championships when he appeared in the heats of the 1 metre springboard in Barcelona on Saturday.

Jamaican diver Yona Knight-Wisdom

Born and bred in Leeds, Knight-Wisdom had a three-way choice of who to represent on the international stage – Jamaica from his father’s side, Barbados from his mother or Great Britain.

He plumped for Jamaica, with the lure of the likes of Usain Bolt, and received his passport in January last year before becoming the first Jamaican male diver to compete internationally. Knight-Wisdom represented Jamaica for the first time in April 2012 in Germany, and yesterday he came 23rd in the 1m springboard in only his fifth international competition.

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He was four places behind Harrogate’s Jack Laugher, who he trains with under former world champion Edwin Jongejans at the City of Leeds club based at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in Middleton.

Along the way there has been interest from the Jamaican press as well as a good luck message from Bolt.

As for funding, Knight-Wisdom emailed Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce fame with a video of his diving as well as outlining his ambitions over the coming years.

It resulted in an invitation to meet Roots, who agreed to provide funding that covers travel and accommodation costs.

Although very tall for a diver at 6ft 1in, Knight-Wisdom has high hopes for the future.

While Betsy Sullivan represented Jamaica at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston at the grand old age of 10 before going on to the 1972 Olympics, Knight-Wisdom is the spearhead for the sport in Jamaica today.

He said “They have the framework but they don’t have any springboards.

“So, if they can get some springboards and some qualified coaches maybe they could start building a programme over there.”

Now his sights are firmly set on the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in three years time.

“I’m definitely going to try and go to Rio on the 3 metre, that is my main board.

“I just need as much experience as possible at competitions like these.

“With big crowds and a lot of pressure - if I can deal with that then that is what I am looking to do.”

Laugher was 43rd following the opening round and clawed his way back to 19th, but missed out on being a part of the 12 that advanced to the final.

He has the 3m springboard to concentrate on later this week.

There will be no British representation in the women’s one-metre springboard final after Leeds divers Alicia Blagg and Hannah Starling failed to progress.

Starling, 18, was on the back foot from the start when she found herself 34th of 39 after the opening round at the iconic Piscina Municipal de Montjuic.

The 18-year-old produced a consistent set of dives and ultimately climbed to 19th – seven off qualification – with a score of 224.75 points.

Wakefield’s Blagg was within touching distance of a medal alongside clubmate Rebecca Gallantree in Saturday night’s 3m synchro final before finishing sixth.

The 16-year-old returned yesterday for the event in which she won European junior gold earlier this month after securing the British title.

Blagg was joint sixth after the first round but her form and technique deserted her as the competition progressed and, although she produced a solid final dive, she finished in 34th with 205 points.

Both divers will now concentrate on the 3m springboard on Friday.