Disappointing but invaluable experience: Knight-Wisdom hopes to bounce back from PanAm flop to secure Olympic qualification

By November 02, 2023
Yona Knight-Wisdom Yona Knight-Wisdom

Things may not have gone how Yona Knight-Wisdom would have liked during his recent outing at the Pan American (PanAm) Games in Chile, but the flag-bearing diver has no intentions reeling in the disappointment for too long.

Instead, Knight-Wisdom views the sub-par performances as an indication that he has some amount of work to do, if he is to achieve the feat of competing at a third-consecutive Olympic Games.

The British-born diver, whose father is Jamaican and mother Barbadian, placed 11th in both the individual 1-metre and 3-metre springboard events with scores of 318.60 and 372.10 respectively.

He also placed fifth in the 3-metre springboard synchronized dive with Canada-born compatriot Yohan Eskrick-Parkinson. Together, they scored 345.51, behind their Mexican (425.46), Colombian (398.67) and United States (368.64) counterparts.

“There is definitely a hint of disappointment from PanAm Games because I struggled with inconsistency throughout the week. But at the same time, I am also a bit excited for the months ahead because I managed to reach a decent level at such an early point in the season and there’s much room for improvement, both individually and in synchro,” Knight-Wisdom told SportsMax.TV.

“The PanAm Games really exposed my natural strengths and weaknesses, so I know exactly what I need to work on between now and the World Championships in February, and hopefully my confidence will grow over the next few months. Synchro was probably the highlight for me because it was a really solid performance in a high quality field. We’re definitely in the mix for Olympic qualification,” he added.

While he reflected with a mixed bag of emotions, Knight-Wisdom, pointed out that the lessons from his recent performances and, by extension, the challenges he overcame along the way, are used as motivation to go even harder in his next training session or competition.

Simply put, Knight-Wisdom’s passion and desire to achieve greatness burns fiercely much like a hellish fire, as he is not merely satisfied with his 1-m springboard silver at the 2019 PanAm Games, nor his 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games appearance.

“So many lessons have come from PanAm. It was one of the most challenging periods of my career, having only six weeks to prepare, and still only 10 months or so since my knee surgery. It showed me that I’m absolutely still capable, but I really need to streamline my focus on competition preparation in the lead up to the last qualifier in February,” Knight-Wisdom shared.

Though the physical and mental challenges are not unique to Knight-Wisdom as many athletes often struggle to find their way back from injury, it is the grace and faith that towering diver exudes as he represents the country with much gusto that stands out.

“I was also getting lots of compliments from other divers and coaches, which gives me confidence even though I wasn’t feeling particularly good within myself on this occasion,” Knight-Wisdom said.

“I honestly believe I’m on the right track and don’t need to make any drastic changes, I just need to trust the process and I believe I will have a great chance of qualifying for the Olympics in two events. So though disappointing, the PanAm experience was definitely extremely valuable for me,” he noted.

For now, Knight-Wisdom said the focus is now rest and recovery to not only improve his mental toughness, but more importantly, to ensure he returns, better and stronger for his next assignment in December, followed by the big Olympic qualifiers in February.

“So it is a few days of rest, then back into training to prepare for the British nationals in December, which will be my last warm up event before the World Championships in Doha in February.

“My chances are definitely good, but anything can happen on the day, so I really need to leave no stone unturned over the next few months and put myself in the best position possible to compete close to my best level in February. I don’t need to be right at my best, but my best is what I’ll be aiming for,” he ended.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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