By KATURA HORTON-PERINCHIEF
Nobody knows quite like a diver that when you step on that platform, you are invincible. The sound of the springboard becomes a rhythm to live by and the smell of chlorine turns into the familiar scent of “home.” Bruises and welts are battle wounds but the sound of a rip entry on a gorgeous dive can make you smile all night long. A good night or bad day can start and end in the pool and it is possible to spin fast enough to leave all your worries behind.
My love affair with diving began when I was five years old. As an island baby, I had been diving off boats since I was two. Bermuda is a tiny island in the Atlantic that boasts beautiful clear blue waters and pink sand beaches along with plenty of places for a young adrenaline junkie to get her fix of “diving off high things.”
My family moved to Toronto so that my parents could pursue their educational endeavors and that’s where my diving career really took off. I was Canadian Age Group champion at 15 and represented Canada internationally at the Junior level until I was 18 years old. Being raised in the diving world was an absolute joy. My diving heroes, Greg Louganis and Annie Pelletier, were ever present at diving meets. I met people from different countries, different backgrounds, different ethnicities and different belief systems and, yet, we all were joined by a commonality of love for the sport of diving.
When I represented Bermuda at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, it was fitting that it was the first time the modern Olympic Games were back on Greek soil. I was flabbergasted at the athletes walking around the Olympic village, many of whom I had only ever seen on TV. I ate lunch with Carmelo Anthony, traded pins with Venus Williams and Cathy Freeman, took pictures with Asafa Powell — the entire experience was surreal. Everybody there had prepared for this moment their entire lives, myself included. Sixteen years of practicing morning and night until my muscles were aching and I could barely move my body parts had all led to this particular point in time. On Aug. 22, 2004, when I stepped on the diving board as the first diver of the women’s three-meter springboard event, I joined the ranks of an elite few who get to call themselves “Olympians.”
I was approached by a press representative in Athens after my event who asked, very excitedly, “How does it feel to be the first black female diver to ever grace an Olympic stage?” I told her that it felt great. I was just so caught up in the sheer exhilaration of having competed in the Games that I didn’t have time to process what the reporter had said.
Participating in the Olympic Games is a unique experience that anyone who gets the chance to have will never forget. This is the reason so many Olympians, including the legendary Greg Louganis, have spoken out against boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympic Games because of Russia’s anti-gay laws. The government officials in Russia are dead wrong in their political stance in promising to arrest and detain spectators and athletes who are deemed to be “practicing a homosexual lifestyle.”
But a boycott of the Olympics hurts the athletes and spectators the most. It’s important that, globally, there is a demonstration of human strength that goes far beyond the ignorance of the Russian government. The purpose of sport is to unite, not divide, and it’s imperative that we, as athletes, as Olympians, as fans and as witnesses of the incredible examples of togetherness that an event such as the Olympic Games can provide, stand up and support our sports heroes as they represent their countries on the greatest of sporting stages. Citius, Altius, Fortius…Faster, Higher, Stronger.
We, as global citizens, have been promised one heck of a show and I, for one, can’t wait to watch it.
Katura Horton-Perinchief represented Bermuda at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.