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Jamaica's first Olympic diver rates Knight-Wisdom

Published:Monday | August 15, 2016 | 11:17 PMShayne Fairman

The island's first ever Olympic diver, Betsy Sullivan Sharp, is encouraging Jamaicans to celebrate the performance of Yona Knight-Wisdom, who yesterday qualified for the men's 3m Springboard semi-final as the first Jamaican male to compete in the sport.

The Springboard diving event continues today.

Knight-Wisdom qualified for the semis with an overall score of 416.55 which, according to the retired Olympian, was impressive.

Sullivan Sharp said she considered the United Kingdom-based diver, "the new poster boy of the sport," locally.

"He is doing fabulously well. It's a long competition and basically he is diving consistently. That is what is making him climb up the way he is doing," she told The Gleaner.

Sharp, who first competed for Jamaica at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, held in Kingston at age 10, and also at the 1972 Munich Olympics in Germany, said Knight-Wisdom dived "consistently well" in yesterday's preliminary round.

"Tomorrow (today) will be more of a mental test for him. (Monday) the pressure was lower, and (today) he needs to keep his nerves, keep relaxed and continue diving consistently, while keeping those nerves away and remaining comfortable," she explained.

Sullivan Sharp observed that the Jamaican diver's level of difficulty might have been less than his rivals, but he was consistently improving.

"His consistency was what was making him climb up. That is the key, if you dive consistently, you will creep up on your competitors. He doesn't have a high degree of difficulty like some of his competitors do, so he has to keep the consistency going," she underlined.

Meanwhile, Sullivan Sharp is encouraging the diver to "soak up the moment and enjoy the Olympics," while using the Games to grow into an "amazing ambassador" for the country.

According to the retired Olympian, who now resides in Florida, United States, Knight-Wisdom "achieved a great feat in qualifying for the Games", and should be given time to develop.

She feels no pressure should be on him, adding the experience is a learning curve.

"It's a huge opportunity, I was privileged to attend the training Camp and see Yona. Once you are an Olympian, you are always an Olympian," reasoned Sharp.

"This is something that I have been pressing for, there is so much talent in Jamaica, don't you see Jamaicans jumping off rocks and boats when you go out all over the country? That's natural talent and when you look at it, you realise that with a little bit of coaching they could become excellent. All it takes is for Jamaica to recognise that diving could be a sport and I believe it could take off," she reasoned.

She said the sport has changed immensely by way of facilities, training technique and technical skills. She is also impressed with the use of video technology which help divers see immediately, what they did wrong

Looking back, the Jamaican said she had no disappointment about not medalling.

"They (divers) were competing before me, but I am forever thankful for Jamaica for the chance they gave me at age 10 to represent my country," she explained.

"The actual technique of the sport has changed in how they approach the dive. In my day, they first tried the three and a half somersault in 1966. It was a big thing," she recalled.

Sullivan Sharp stressed: "I am wearing my Jamaican colours right now and rooting for Yona.

People need to encourage all our athletes, all the Olympians. Instead of the emphasis being, they didn't medal, it should be, they went out there, they did us proud, let's continue the next four years. I want to say Yona, you made us proud."

shayne.fairman@gleanerjm.com