Desharne Bent-Ashmeil, the new European Games champion, has set her sights on a groundbreaking achievement – becoming the first black diver to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games. Her aspiration goes beyond personal success; she aims to inspire individuals from diverse backgrounds to see diving as a sport for them.
Raised in Crystal Palace, south London, Bent-Ashmeil initially pursued gymnastics as her sport of choice. However, a fortuitous encounter with diving transformed her life. Watching divers at the National Sports Centre sparked her fascination, leading her to express her desire to give it a try. This decision was met with skepticism from her mother, who reminded her that she couldn’t swim. Undeterred, Bent-Ashmeil promptly enrolled in swimming lessons, and within six months, she acquired the skills necessary to embark on her diving journey.
While Bent-Ashmeil’s passion for gymnastics exposed her to the achievements of Beth Tweddle, an Olympic bronze medalist, she found it challenging to find role models who shared her racial background. It was Canadian diver Jennifer Abel who provided a beacon of hope for her, demonstrating that diversity could flourish in the world of diving. Bent-Ashmeil wished to emulate Abel’s success, and in doing so, become a role model for others who may feel different or underrepresented.
Bent-Ashmeil’s path to success began to take shape when she claimed the European junior champion title in 2019 on the 1m springboard. Her talent was recognized by Diving England, naming her Talent Athlete of the Year. With guidance from esteemed coach Jane Figueiredo, who previously mentored Olympic gold medalists Tom Daley and Matty Lee, Bent-Ashmeil made her breakthrough on the senior stage in 2022. Despite narrowly missing out on a podium finish in both the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the European Championships in Rome, she gained confidence and invaluable experience from these competitions.
In 2023, Bent-Ashmeil and her synchronised 3m springboard partner, Amy Rollinson, overcame setbacks and secured a place in the European Games, where they clinched their first major title. Although they won’t be participating in the upcoming World Championships, their joint training and preparation will position them as strong contenders for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
While Bent-Ashmeil cherishes the idea of standing on the podium, her ultimate mission transcends mere medal acquisition. As a role model, she takes great pride in representing her sport and motivating younger generations. By breaking barriers and defying norms, she hopes to empower individuals who feel different or lack representation to pursue their dreams with confidence. Through her own journey, Bent-Ashmeil aims to inspire others, encouraging them to say, “I can do it too!”
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about diversity in sports
Q: What is Desharne Bent-Ashmeil aiming to achieve as a diver?
A: Desharne Bent-Ashmeil aims to become the first black diver to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games, breaking barriers and inspiring diversity in the sport.
Q: How did Desharne Bent-Ashmeil get into diving?
A: Desharne Bent-Ashmeil initially pursued gymnastics but was captivated by diving after watching it at the National Sports Centre. She quickly enrolled in swimming lessons to learn how to swim and began her diving journey.
Q: Who were Desharne Bent-Ashmeil’s role models in diving?
A: Desharne Bent-Ashmeil looked up to Canadian Olympic medallist Jennifer Abel, as she was a black diver competing on the world stage. Abel served as an inspiration for Bent-Ashmeil and helped her feel represented in the sport.
Q: What achievements has Desharne Bent-Ashmeil accomplished in diving?
A: Desharne Bent-Ashmeil became the European junior champion on the 1m springboard in 2019 and was named Diving England’s Talent Athlete of the Year. She has also secured domestic honours and recently won her first major title at the European Games.
Q: What are Desharne Bent-Ashmeil’s aspirations beyond winning medals?
A: While podium places are important to her, Desharne Bent-Ashmeil aims to be a role model in the sport and motivate younger generations. She wants to inspire individuals, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, to pursue diving and feel empowered to achieve their dreams.
More about diversity in sports
- Desharne Bent-Ashmeil – British diver on why she feels ‘OK to be different’ (BBC Sport)
- Desharne Bent-Ashmeil: The British diver making history and embracing diversity (Olympic Channel)
- Desharne Bent-Ashmeil: “I can represent and motivate younger generations” (Eurosport)
- Diving England (Swimming.org)