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'Keep diving, swimming alive' - Former Jamaica Olympic diver makes plea to grow spor

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2016 | 12:00 AMShayne Fairman
Betsy Sullivan Sharp

Having watched Jamaica's first men's Olympic diver Yona Knight-Wisdom book his place in today's men's 3m springboard semi-final, Olympian Betsy Sullivan Sharp is calling for more awareness to help the sport grow.

Knight-Wisdom qualified for today's semis with an overall score of 416.55, which, according to Sullivan Sharp, was "impressive".

Sullivan Sharp first competed for Jamaica at the 1966 Commonwealth Games held in Kingston at age 10, and also at the 1972 Munich Olympics in Germany.

She now resides in Florida, United States, and believes Knight-Wisdom "achieved a great feat in qualifying for the Games".

"Jamaica, right now, is at the forefront, but when Olympics is over, I urge every Jamaican and the media to continue tracking the sport and keep diving and swimming alive," she said.

Knight-Wisdom is the country's first ever men's Olympic diver and will feature in today's semi-final round in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be more of a mental test for him. [Yesterday] the pressure was lower, and tomorrow he needs to keep his nerve, keep relaxed and continue diving consistently, while keeping those nerves away and remaining comfortable," Sullivan Sharp explained.

She considers the British-based diver "the new poster boy of the sport" locally, who needs to be supported to help the sport extract new talent and grow.

"Build interest in the sport, the rest will take care of itself. Just get his name out there and get the sport out there and interest will follow," she explained.

She believes that once the local body can get interest in the sport, investment will come.

"Diving requires a pool and diving board and, even though we only have one pool in Kingston, I believe that we should try to get talents from all over Jamaica and start with baby steps, starting with a diving presence, and then sponsorship will come."

Sullivan Sharp assured that once the sport of diving has a presence, sponsorship will be attracted.

"When I was diving, my mother taught me techniques from a book. 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," reasoned Sullivan Sharp.