Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Graduation ceremony vs opening ceremony ... History-making Jamaican diver looks forward to that special walk

Published:Monday | August 1, 2016 | 8:00 AMAndre Lowe
Diver Yona Knight-Wisdom and his mom, Grace Wisdom.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:

On Thursday his friends at Leeds Beckett University in England were posting pictures on their social media pages from their graduation ceremony, while he buckled down in Tallahassee, Florida preparing for competition - and a ceremony that he considers the best he'll ever attend.

Born to a Jamaican father and a Barbadian mother, Yona Knight-Wisdom stands ready on the springboard of history, with his name already carved in the chronicles as the first man to qualify to represent Jamaica in diving at the Olympic Games.

Knight-Wisdom, who was born in England, will also become the first man representing a Caribbean country, to compete in a diving event at the Olympics.

He could only watch on from the other side of the world as his friends celebrated a graduation ceremony that he too was supposed to be a part of after completing his studies with honours.

You see, while they crossed the stage, the 21 year-old was sharpening up ahead of the Rio Games alongside British divers at a training camp ahead of the Rio Games.

However, after securing his spot at the Olympics earlier this year at the Diving World Cup, where he claimed the 17th of 18 spots available, Knight-Wisdom isn't too bothered by missing his graduation. He has other things to look forward to.

"Oh yea, that (Opening Ceremony) will be better than any other ceremony I've ever attended!" beamed Knight-Wisdom, during a chat with The Gleaner.

"The ceremony took place while I was in Tallahassee preparing for the Olympics so unfortunately I had to miss it, but it seemed like a great day for my friends at 'Uni'. Still, I'd much rather be here!"

Introduced to diving in 2004, eight years before he first represented Jamaica in competition, Knight-Wisdom says he can't wait to start his Olympic experience and is looking forward to marching into the Maracana Stadium behind the Jamaican flag on Friday, during the Opening Ceremony, even as he comes to grips with the magnitude of his achievement.

Knight-Wisdom will follow Betty Sullivan as the only divers to represent Jamaica at the Olympics after her participation at the 1972 Games.

"Has it dawned on me? It's starting to. Meeting with Betsy Sullivan (now Betsy Sharpe) this week here in Tallahassee made it much more real. She showed me pictures of the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica and that was really incredible. But I don't think it will truly hit me until I'm in Rio or even after my competition," said Knight-Wisdom.

"I can't wait to get there but at the moment I'm really focusing on working hard in Tallahassee at my training camp. It's all about getting my body back in shape and the regaining the consistency in my dives after my week of media in Jamaica," he added.

Knight-Wisdom was expected to travel to Miami yesterday to continue his preparation before arriving in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympic Village on Wednesday.

The diver is hoping to score 400 plus points in the preliminary round when he dives into competition at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 15.

The lowest points total in the men's 3m dive to advance to the semi-final round at the 2012 Olympic Games was 436.05 points.

"Achieving a score of 400 or more points would be really good for me in the prelims. Then we can see where that score actually gets me," Knight-Wisdom said. "The key would be minimising mistakes, ensuring good clean entries into the water and as little splash as possible."

"I'm really looking forward to returning to Jamaica hopefully on the back of a successful Olympic Games performance," he added. "Being there really showed me that the Jamaican support for me and all the other Olympians is really strong - 100 per cent."

By the way, Knight-Wisdom was not entirely left out of the graduation celebrations.

He had his own personal graduation shoot just before he left for his training camp - gown, hood, Mortar Board; oh and of course a springboard.