by Hayley Longster
Jamaica’s first ever Commonwealth diver has said that he is lucky to have been born and raised in Leeds, because it gives him access to the best training he could hope for.
Yona Knight-Wisdom, 19, trains at the John Charles Centre for Sport which has become a breeding ground for Olympic talent over the past decade.
He says: “The John Charles centre is still one of the most modern pools we have here in the UK for divers.
“But the reason I think training here has benefited me so much is the team atmosphere. All the divers from all the different age groups train together and we help each other improve.”
He added : “Without this environment and the first class coaching we have, none of us would be at the level we now are.
“My main goal now is to qualify for Rio 2016, which I think I’m on track for.”
His coach, former Netherlands world champion Edwin Jongejans says: “I’ve been here in Leeds for 11 years too, the same amount of time Yona has been diving.
“He’s one of the first people we found on the talent ID program, which we set up so we could go into schools and root out potential talent. Yona is testament to how successful we’ve been.”
Yona won two bronze medals at the British Gas National Championships in February. This meant he finished in third place overall.
He also took fifth place overall in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“I completely surpassed my own expectations there. I don’t think I dived to the best of my ability,” he said.
Much has been made of his historic decision to represent Jamaica instead of Great Britain at the games – making history as Jamaica’s first ever Commonwealth diver.
However he says: “I’m now very excited to get out on the international circuit and represent the UK – my next competitions are in Gatineau, Canada and San Juan Puerto Rico.”
The Leeds diving club currently boasts five Olympic divers and eight Commonwealth divers. The Commonwealth diving team recently won the ‘Most Professional Team’ award at the Leeds Sports Awards.