Letters | Feb 01, 2020

Tom Startz

As an experienced skydiver, I’ve competed in 4-way [formation skydiving] in the advanced class at Nationals multiple times. Unfortunately, my teams have never medaled, although we have come very, very close. Some of my teams could very easily have competed in the lower, intermediate class to win a medal, but they have always declined to do so. That kind of decision displays integrity and a true competitive spirit.

During the last two years, a former member of an open-class gold-medal-winning team has won the gold medal in advanced as a player-coach. And other top open winners are doing the same: player coaching teams in advanced and even in intermediate. It is obviously legit according to the rules, but I seriously question if it is sporting for a winner of multiple gold medals in a higher division to continue to compete for a medal in lower divisions. It almost seems like a contest now between these elite and skilled jumpers to see who can win more medals in a lesser division. And let’s not forget they make decent money while doing it.

I’m sure you already understand how I feel about this: I don’t like it. But I am wondering whether other competitors share my feelings? I have spoken to some seasoned 4-way competitors about this, and they all agree that it is not right, but will they speak up or in other ways influence the powers-that-be to change the rules? One competitor even said that he doesn’t like it, but he wants a medal in advanced, so he is going to approach a former open gold medalist about doing another one of these player-coached teams just so he can win, too (thus perpetuating something that he doesn’t think is fair). Will this attempt at making the advanced class a money game drive some competitors out of the market to compete or inflate the ranks of intermediate?

What’s important to me is to preserve the integrity of our competitions, and if people don’t have this within themselves, then maybe we need to change the rules so it becomes an even playing field again. Let’s just try to be fair to all.

Tom Startz | D-23115
Sycamore, Illinois

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