Yona Knight-Wisdom, Olympic Diver
- Sport and fitness
Name: Yona Knight-Wisdom
My job title: Diver – I compete in the three-metre springboard event and I represent my father’s nation, Jamaica.
My position in a nutshell… I’ve been in this sport for 17 years and I am currently aiming for my second Olympic Games, which will hopefully happen in Tokyo this year. Since 2013 I have also worked as a diving coach alongside my training, as I believe it’s important for me to give back to the sport which has given me so much and help the next generation of divers on their journey.
I’ve competed at some of the biggest events in the world, including World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games. The peak so far for me was when I became the first ever Jamaican diver at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Away from diving, I graduated from Leeds Beckett University in 2016 with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science. I am currently studying a post graduate certificate in International Sports Management with the University of London.
My typical day… This has changed so many times over the past year due to the pandemic and lockdown. When things are normal, I train twice a day, 6 days a week. Currently my morning session is from 9am-11am and my afternoon session is from 2pm-4.30pm. I would usually be coaching four days a week, for a couple of hours in the evening after I finish training – of course that’s not possible at the moment, so I am having regular zoom sessions with my group of divers instead. I also try to dedicate an hour a day to studying for my uni course.
My most memorable moment… I have surpassed the expectations of almost everyone who knows me, including some of my old coaches. I’m doing dives that they never imagined possible for me. My career highlight has to be winning a silver medal at the 2016 World Cup in Rio. I achieved my life goal and secured my Olympic spot by finishing in the top 18, which also meant I had qualified for the semi-finals. In the semi-final I beat my personal best by 4 points and qualified for the final.
The best part of my job… When I have gone through a tough period of training, which results in a really good performance at a competition. I am constantly chasing the perfect dive, which is so hard to achieve. A competition is the only time we get to see if our efforts in training were worthwhile. If it all comes together in the pressure of a competition, nothing matches the happiness that I feel.
The worst part of my job… When one of the divers I coach injures themselves on a new or difficult dive. I have experienced the pain so many times before, and I know how much a wipe out can hurt. This can affect people physically and mentally and as a coach I feel responsible.
The key skills/attributes needed in your role… The most important attribute required is discipline. I ensure I’m doing everything I can to be the best diver I can be – eating well, sleeping well, recovering from training effectively, as well as giving my all at training. I don’t let outside influences disrupt my focus in the pool. I must also be disciplined with my studies – I make sure I stay on top of my work and don’t fall behind as this will affect my training. As a coach I ensure that I have good short-term and long-term plans for each diver I look after, in order to help them become the best that they can be.
Advice for someone looking to go into something similar…
My advice to you would be to find out where your passion lies. Work doesn’t feel like work if you are passionate about it. The more passionate you are, the more likely it is that you’ll do a great job and be happy at the same time. The best way to find your passion is by trying out and experiencing lots of different things.
Volunteer in different roles and learn from the people around you, as they will help you to develop and progress. When you find the perfect thing for you, you will reap the benefits of it.