The world’s most elite skydivers representing more than 40 nations made their way to Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, for the 2018 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Parachuting Championships of Artistic Events, Canopy Formation, Formation Skydiving and Speed Skydiving October 6-13 to vie for World Champion titles. The U.S. showed up with a healthy delegation of 12 teams and six speed competitors to compete in 10 events.
Australia proved to be an amazing host country. The championship kicked off at the seaside resort of Surfers Paradise, where delegations watched parachutes soar over the blue waters of Gold Coast and land on the golden sandy beach as part of the opening ceremonies. In the following days, Meet Director Bryan Burke and Event Director Brad Turner, along with the entire WPC team, worked diligently and successfully to get events completed despite less-than-ideal weather conditions.
For speed skydiving, the USA, a relative newcomer to the discipline, fielded six competitors. Dedicated speed skydivers Joe Carder and Kyle Lobpries—who took silver and gold, respectively, at the 2018 USPA Nationals—joined Chris Acevedo, John Long, Daniel Osorio and Reese Pendleton—members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights—to comprise the U.S. Team.
To heighten the drama, the fastest competitors jumped last. The competitors initially jumped in order of their previous personal-best runs, and for later rounds, they jumped in order of their current scores. Mostly good weather dominated the early part of the week, and the speed competition finished in four days with no major delays or operational problems. Out of 31 competitors, U.S. National Champion Lobpries placed a respectable seventh, the highest placement for the U.S. Team. Germany’s Thomas Moritz Friess took the gold to become Speed Skydiving World Champion. Australia’s Shane Turner took silver, and Great Britain’s Charles Hurd took bronze.
Canopy Formation Skydiving
The U.S. fielded four teams in the canopy formation skydiving events: Elsinore Too Wrapped Up in 4-way rotations, Elsinore Revolution in 4-way sequential, and Slot Switch as USA 1 and Elsinore Two Wrapped Up (comprised of members of the 4-way rotations team) as USA 2 in 2-way sequential. Of the four teams, Elsinore Too Wrapped Up and Slot Switch were seasoned international CF competitors.
In 2-way sequential, Slot Switch improved on its 2016 World Parachuting Championships average by more than two full points to a 17.6. With that, they also improved their scoreboard position, finishing fifth in a field of 16 teams and setting a North American Continental Record by coming out strong with a score of 20 in the first round. Two Wrapped Up finished ninth after a battle with Russia 2 and the Canadian team for seventh. For a team with essentially no 2-way practice going into the meet, it was quite an impressive finish! France 1, Qatar and France 2 took gold, silver and bronze, respectively.
In 4-way sequential, arguably the most complex event, Elsinore Revolution finished fourth behind home-team Australia, which took the bronze. Qatar dominated the event and took the gold, scoring 30 points ahead of silver medalist Russia. With a fourth-place finish in a strong field, Revolution’s first outing as the U.S. Team was a definite success, and the team scored nine points in round four, a North American Continental Record. Perhaps we'll see double-digit rounds from this team at the 2019 USPA Nationals! A highlight of Revolution’s meet, courtesy of some strong load-one winds, was an off-field landing at a local school, where some very enthusiastic schoolchildren swarmed the team members and peppered them with questions!
In 4-way rotations, Elsinore Too Wrapped Up bested the home team by a commanding 46 points to take the bronze medal, improving on its fifth-place finish at the 2016 World Championships. This was all the more impressive considering that the team had changed its technique in the intervening two years. The team hopes that its new strategy will help it dominate again at the USPA Nationals and qualify to represent the USA in 2020 in Russia, where it will need to get up to a 21- or 22-point pace to take the top spot.
The artistic events category saw a good level of participation, with 11 teams from eight countries competing in freefly and 12 teams from eight countries competing in freestyle. The U.S. fielded two teams in each category: Team FLO as USA 1 and Tr3Blu as USA 2 in freefly, and Animare XP as USA 1 and Axiom XP as USA 2 in freestyle. The initial competitors’ briefing—where the judges covered scoring and how teams could best present their routines—was spirited as always. The events ran smoothly, and the location offered a near-perfect backdrop for the artistic camera flyers.
In freestyle, France took home the gold medal, and Great Britain took the silver. In its first world meet, USA 2 (Axiom XP) put in an amazing performance—especially for a team that had never competed at the world level before—and took home the bronze. USA 1 (Animare XP) placed seventh.
The freestyle event saw a close battle between two powerhouse teams from France, which is always a nation to contend with in this discipline. France 2 (AirWax) and France 1 (Solaris) took gold and silver, respectively, separated by only four-tenths of a point. Norway took the bronze. USA 1 (Team FLO) put in a solid performance and ended in fifth place, not far off the lead. USA 2 (Tru3Blu) placed 10th.
More than 50 formation skydiving teams competed at the championships; the U.S. fielded four. Arizona Airspeed once again represented the U.S. in 4-way formation skydiving. Phoenix XP was the U.S. 4-way female formation skydiving team. The U.S. Army Golden Knights competed in 8-way, and SDC Core competed in the vertical event.
In 8-way, the Golden Knights took a commanding lead right away and kept it up through the entire event for the gold medal. Russia took silver, and Qatar took bronze. This World Championship was particularly meaningful for the Knights, which has been a dominant force in 8-way, because it marked the last time that three of its members—Justin Blewitt, Josh Coleman and Sean Sweeney—will compete with the team.
Vertical formation skydiving team SDC Core also took a commanding lead from the start, finishing for the gold a stunning 41 points ahead of the silver medalist, Team Canada. Australia took the bronze. In addition to his gold medal, SDC Core’s videographer, Jake Jensen, took home something else: a fiancée. Jensen proposed to his girlfriend, Ashleigh Hartman, during the medal ceremony. (She said yes.)
This World Championships was Phoenix XP’s first international competition, and the women flew confidently against an accomplished field. With France and Great Britain having large leads throughout the event and eventually taking gold and silver, respectively, the real battle was with Team Sweden for the bronze. Although the Swedish team squeaked past Phoenix XP for the bronze by two points, Phoenix maintained a solid third-place position for most of the competition, which is something to be proud of at a first world meet.
In 4-way, everyone stayed on the edge of their seats as Arizona Airspeed and the Belgian team, Hayabusa, stayed neck-and-neck through the entire competition. Round six, an all-random draw, pumped up the excitement in anticipation of possible record-setting performances. Airspeed went first, flying an amazing (and world-record qualifying) 60 points in the 35 seconds of working time. Rising to the challenge, Hayabusa then went up and scored 62 points, besting the world record performance mere minutes after Airspeed accomplished it. The race to the ﬁnish was a nail biter, and USA and Belgium were tied after round nine. All eyes were on the TV during the live judging of round 10. With only milliseconds separating their accumulation of points, Hayabusa outscored Airspeed 22 to 20 to take home the World Championship with 279 total points. Airspeed, in its typical graciousness, heartily congratulated Belgium on its win and took home the silver. France took home the bronze.
All told, the U.S. Team brought home two World Championships (in vertical formation skydiving and 8-way formation skydiving), one silver and two bronze medals. The U.S. also fielded some fresh talent, with lots of impressive performances from competitors who had not before seen international competition. The future of U.S. skydiving is certainly looking bright!
Correction: In the scoreboard for “Gold Medals on the Gold Coast” in the December issue, the names of the two teams from Skydive Elsinore were swapped. The scoreboard should have stated that Elsinore Too Wrapped Up was the bronze medalist in 4-way rotations and Elsinore Revolution took fourth place in 4-way sequential at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Championships of Canopy Formation Skydiving.