Hey, I’m Yona! This year I’m competing at my THIRD Commonwealth Games. Whilst this edition is in a slightly less exotic location compared to the last, Gold Coast 2018, I’m so excited to get there and compete. Like the Olympics and Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games gives me a chance to feel a bit more like a team member rather than just an individual.
Being the only Jamaican diver for the past 10 years has meant that I generally travel alone to diving events, and I never get that feeling of being part of a team.
Normally I don’t even have my own coach at diving events, I just latch onto another team. At the Commonwealth Games we stay together as a country, I have access to the physios, get to know the management, and interact with the other athletes. I like going to watch some other sports if I get a chance, it’s rare I get the opportunity to do that outside of a Games since I spend so much time training, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the venues in Birmingham other than just the aquatic centre.
From experience there is definitely a slightly more relaxed vibe around the Commonwealth Games. There is less pressure at the Commonwealth Games, and it is much smaller as well since there are fewer countries who attend, so the environment feels much calmer.
Having said that, I wouldn’t go as far as to call them the Friendly Games, because whilst diving is quite a friendly sport, once we get into competition there is no room for friendliness. I think that in the Olympic village there are so many great athletes under so much pressure to perform on the biggest stage, their attitude and approach almost transfer to others.
Commonwealth medals can be as life or career changing as Olympic medals.
Since May, I’ve had a run of competitions in preparation for these Games. On my Instagram I decided to post every day from 1 May until 8 August, Commonwealth Closing Ceremony Day, which was exactly 100 days. In that period I will have attended five different competitions – Futures Cup in Plymouth, British Nationals in Sheffield, FINA Grand Prix in Calgary, World Championships in Budapest, and finally the Commonwealth Games – which is more than I had attended in the previous 26 MONTHS! I wanted to document my journey, the highs and lows, and create more memories along the way.
As I am writing this, I am currently at my base in Edinburgh, finishing a week of training before heading south. The aquatic centre is brand new, so I have never been there before, I’ve only seen pictures. My mum is volunteering at the Games and she’s had a chance to see the venue before me!
I know that Birmingham is a very diverse city so hopefully there will be a lot of Jamaican supporters around the Games. I will have a few friends coming to watch me dive, most of whom have never watched me compete live before.
There are so many great divers who are in my events, but I’d say the majority of my main competitors are from the Home Nations. One of my best friends, Jack Laugher, won three medals at the World Championships in Budapest so he’s in great form and will be looking to win three gold medals for the second Commonwealth Games in a row.
At most international events, each nation can only send two divers; but at the Commonwealths there can be three entrants per country. As well as Jack, there are two other very talented divers from England, and my training partner up here in Edinburgh, Jack Heatly, will be Scotland’s medal hope. In diving, no matter your form in the lead up, it is all about who turns up on the day and handles the occasion.
In addition to my Games preparation, I’ve just become a qualified coach/mentor, and started my coaching business. I’ve been working on writing a few eBooks, the first of which is available on my website. It’s all about the performance principles that I have developed over the years of international competition. A key area has been goal setting.
My goals are to win medals in both the 1 metre and 3 metres events. It’s going to be challenging that’s for sure, but I believe it’s very achievable if I perform anywhere near my best. Regardless, I have absolutely enjoyed the journey to this point and which the energy, motivation and direction I’ve gained from these goals, I’ve put myself in a good position to at least have the opportunity to achieve them, and that’s all I can ask for. The achievement will be the icing on the cake.