Diving into Success: An inspiring chat with Bermudian, Katura Horton Perinchief

A common mix up, many people claim Bermuda as the Caribbean and it's obvious why. The people are warm and welcoming, with a unique accent; a callaloo of voices. Sun is shining, the weather is sweet. It's paradise. I have never seen more beautiful water, and with the white-roofed houses bordering the beaches, it is the stuff postcards are made of.

So when I was introduced to Katura Horton Perinchief, I already felt a sort of familiarity. People from the islands feel like we're all related somehow and Bermuda is basically the Caribbean's close cousin. I researched her a little bit first and was intimidatingly inspired by all she has done. Katura was not just the first Bermudian woman to compete in Olympic diving (2004), but that year she also became the first black woman [from any nation] to compete in Olympic diving, after no Bermudian had competed at the Olympics for diving in 52 years! Although she has now retired from competing, Katura is the Chef de Mission for the Bermuda team at this year’s Commonwealth Games. She also serves on the Bermuda Olympic Association Executive Board, and chairs their Standards Committee. And as though that wasn't enough for one plate, Katura has an MBA and Master’s degree in public health. She collects and analyses cancer statistics for the hospital in Bermuda. In a recent interview with bernews.com, she explained that the public service part of sport really ties in very well to the public service part of health.

“I didn’t see the link early on after my retirement, but now I see that this type of work drives me. So even though it just pays the bills, I enjoy it immensely. I love that I am able to assist doctors and the community is better able to manage cancer on the island.”

With a laden career, bursting with accolades, and also inevitable moments of surrender and loss, Katura is the perfect person to ask about success.

KHP: "Success is exactly how one defines and measures it. The toughest part about this is that there are societal confines placed on what success should look like. I deal best with this challenge by setting my own guidelines on what success is to me. Whether success looks like making a million dollars, attaining a university degree, running a successful diving camp or even just getting up out of bed and adulting for the day, that is entirely up to me. That way, if I don't achieve it, I can get up the next morning and try again without outside pressure from entities that really, in the grand scheme of things, don't matter anyway.

BC: You do such meaningful work with children. How does it feel to give back?

I've had such an incredible support system that has enabled me to do so much so most of my achievements have been a collective effort. At the time, finishing my undergraduate degree the year I turned 21 and earning an Olympic berth were incredible achievements. Now that I'm a little older, I'd like to think that the achievement I'm most proud of right now is the establishment and growth of my summer camp for kids. I'm surrounded by immensely supportive people and, together, we have introduced the sport that shaped me, built my confidence and allowed me to see the world while representing my country to a whole lot of little kids who otherwise might not have ever gotten to know or love diving. That's definitely one of my most fulfilling accomplishments."

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It's refreshing, not just to hear how clearly she can articulate what drives her, but to realize that amidst all her international recognition, and super-normal athletic prowess, what she considers success, is rooted in very humble things. We talked a bit about what it means to her to be a woman; and about her pride over being Bermudian. Unable to narrow it down to one stand-out thing, she beautifully spilled on what she loves about both identities.

KHP: "The best part about being a woman is being able to shape and guide future women. I love how capable we are, how intelligent, how accomplished, how driven, how beautiful, how passionate, how sexy, how strong and how diverse we are and I think it's exciting that there is a whole world full of little girls who will grow up to be incredible women too. I love the impact that women, as a group, have on the planet. The World Bank has estimated that most of the world's major problems (hunger, poverty, etc.) could be solved through the education of women. We create life. We are everything. That's a lot of responsibility and I could not feel more fortunate to be a woman.

BC: And to be a woman of Bermuda! I see so many people from small islands making huge waves. For me, it makes me feel like anything is possible. Anyone can achieve what they work towards.

KHP: It means a great deal. I represented Canada as a junior but knew, early, that if I continued competing internationally on the senior level, I wanted it to be for Bermuda. It's home, at my core I'm an island gyal (smile), and the Olympic team is usually anywhere from 6 to 12 athletes deep. We may not have some of the resources, funding or facilities that larger countries have but what we lack in those areas, we make up for in heart and perseverance. I love Bermuda, I'm a proud Bermudian, and to have the opportunity to do all this on a world stage with Bermuda on my back has truly been an honour.

BC: What would you say to other people, maybe younger hopefuls just starting their careers, from smaller territories trying to make a mark?

KHP: My advice would be the same as advice to any other kid from any other country, big or small. Your life is yours to live and your legacy is yours to build regardless of where you're from. Take every day as an opportunity to build your legacy and know that, whether you like it or not you're a role model and the next generation will look up to you. If you're from a small country, the magnifying glass power is that much greater. The way you choose to handle obstacles, and they will be plentiful, are what determines success or failure and if you are brave enough to forge forward when others turn back, I don't care what flag you march behind, that is the determining factor. Bravery isn't a character trait; it's a choice that you can wake up every single morning and make. Choosing to be brave when you have a very reason not to, is precisely what will make all the difference.

BC: If there was one thing you wanted the rest of the world to know about Bermuda, what would it be?

KHP: Just one thing about Bermuda? Perhaps that we are not just a triangle or some shorts! (Laughs) We may be small but we are mighty. We are infused with island culture, we're friendly and wildly talented. Bermudians are a very proud bunch and we love our little speck in the Atlantic ocean. Pink sand beaches and clear blue waters coupled with a booming international business sector make for an interesting tourism product that we love to share with visitors. Additionally, we are very proud of our national sporting heroes. We have the number one ranked female triathlete in the world, we currently still hold the Commonwealth Games record for the men's high jump which has stood for almost thirty years and we produce talented cricketers, footballers and Olympians from several sports. For a population of 64 thousand, we do very well on the world stage. Sorry...couldn't pick just one! "

Her athletic prowess is undeniably remarkable. She is eloquent and so encouraging, in the way she speaks about following one's passions. She finds her greatest satisfaction in working with younger children at her Summer Camp; coaching and sharing with them, the opportunities which led her to be so boldly confident. What tid-bit most inspires us at about Katura? Sorry, also couldn't pick just one!