The summer is in full swing for most of us here in the U.S. Man, is it great to feel a sense of normalcy as I talk to people and visit drop zones. Handshakes, high-fives and big hugs have certainly been lacking, and I think we’re all stoked to have them back. Drop zone owners and instructors are breathing a breath of fresh air, both literally as they move outside unmasked and figuratively as fun jumpers and first-time tandem students seem to be flocking back to our drop zones.
This month, USPA will send our best competitors to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Parachuting Championships-Mondial (“all events”) in Tanay, Siberia in Russia. This championship was originally set for last August but was postponed along with just about every other major sporting event scheduled in 2020. The road to this event has been a tough one for all our U.S. Parachute Team competitors, and they faced unprecedented roadblocks to competing along the way. First, a year’s delay threw wrenches in everyone’s plans. Training through a pandemic created challenges never managed before. The competition itself will also look a little different, since the host had to institute anti-COVID guidelines, create a COVID-controller position and plan numerous safety protocols. Looks like we’ll have to pause the hugs and high-fives that we’ve just gotten used to again.
But those are not all the challenges this competition faced. Remember the Olympic doping scandal that led to the World Anti-Doping Agency banning Russian athletes from competition? Well, the effects of that trickled down to all major sporting events subject to WADA oversight, including FAI events. Yup, that includes the Mondial. The final approval for the event to proceed in Russia was just received a few months ago. No sooner had that issue gotten resolved when tragedy struck. On June 19, our hearts were broken when we learned of a horrible plane crash at Skydive Tanay, the host of the upcoming championships. The unfortunate accident took the lives of a number of our Russian skydiving family and led to the grounding of the L-410 aircraft planned for use at this competition. On top of all this, there has been what I would describe as a strained political relationship between our countries.
So many curveballs and roadblocks have affected this competition. And they are all above and beyond the usual challenges our team members face in their personal and professional lives as they prepare for a world championship. Through all these challenges, the international skydiving community and the hosts of this Mondial fought to keep this event alive. The spirit of competition is strong in our sport and the desire of so many to set the international stage for a remarkable event is making the impossible a reality.
Our U.S. Parachute Team has worked hard to overcome the odds to prepare for this event and bring their best to the world’s stage. I’m proud of them, every last one. They’re giving their all to represent the United States, to represent the United States Parachute Association and show the world what we’re made of. Go team!