United Nations—The 2019 FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving and Artistic Events
A USPA Staff Report with contributions from Skydive Arizona Marketing and Events Coordinator George Hargis
Skydive Arizona in Eloy is used to hosting skydivers from all over the world for training camps and record attempts. However, it’s not often that hundreds of jumpers from different nations all show up at once, as they did for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale 22nd World Cup of Formation Skydiving and 13th World Cup of Artistic Events. During the first week of October, you could hear a variety of languages anywhere on the drop zone: Chinese in the boarding area, French on the packing mats in the hangar, Norwegian around the pool, German at the mock-up and Russian at the manifest window. Fifty teams from 16 countries attended the event.
With an allowance of four teams per discipline, the U.S. took advantage of its home-team status and showed up with a healthy delegation of 17 teams. Representing the U.S. were Axiom XP, AZ Dream and It’s So Hilarious in freestyle; Arizona Airspeed, Arizona Airspeed Odyssey, SDC Rhythm XP and USA Defiance in 4-way formation skydiving; Phoenix XP, SNE Flygirls and Victorious Secret in female 4-way FS; Amphibious Attack Tigers, Arizona Airspeedish 8, the Niners and XP8 in 8-way FS; and Arizona Anthem, Arizona X-Force and SDC Core in 4-way vertical formation skydiving. Rhonda Kaletz and Karl Meyer served as team managers, and ShawnaRae Miliano proudly served as head of delegation.
The event began on October 5 with a parade of nations. The teams carried their national flags in a procession as a local fire engine led them to the main stage. After a welcoming speech from Eloy Mayor Joel Belloc, the demo team from the Women’s Skydiving Network performed an artistic demonstration complete with a bright display of colored smoke and five large, custom-designed, event-inspired flags. Red Bull athlete Miles Daisher kept the crowd entertained with his gregarious personality, and Red Bull acrobatic aircraft pilot Kirby Chambliss closed out the ceremony with a heart-stopping performance in his Kivko Edge 540.
Following a competitor briefing by Meet Director Bryan Burke and the draw from the dive pool, it was straight to business as the teams began strategizing their jumps. Beginning early the next day and continuing through the week, Skydive Arizona sent up 184 Twin Otter loads, and the competitors made 2,729 jumps. The event was blessed with excellent weather with only one short hold for turbulent winds.
In 4-way FS, 13 teams from eight nations competed. The U.S. teams put in powerhouse performances and swept the podium with Arizona Airspeed taking gold, SDC Rhythm XP taking silver and Airspeed Odyssey taking bronze. In addition, USA Defiance took fourth.
In 4-way FS female, which saw seven teams from four nations compete, France and Great Britain took gold and silver, respectively, while Phoenix XP from the U.S. took the bronze. Of the other two U.S. teams that competed in the 4-way female event, SNE Flygirls took fifth and Victorious Secret took sixth.
In 8-way FS, nine teams (four from the U.S.) competed. Russia and France took the top two spots, while the U.S.’s XP8 took the bronze. The other U.S. teams—Arizona Airspeedish 8, the Niners and Amphibious Attack Tigers—took fourth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
In 4-way VFS, SDC Core, straight from its victory at the USPA Nationals weeks earlier, took the gold. Russia took silver and U.S. team Arizona X-Force took the bronze. Arizona Anthem, also from the U.S., took fifth. Notably, X-Force’s bronze medal made member Brianne Thompson—also a member of 4-way female FS team Phoenix XP—the first female and third competitor ever to medal in two disciplines at a single world competition.
Despite the competition being in the U.S., no freefly teams from the U.S. competed at this World Cup, where Norway, France and Switzerland took gold, silver and bronze, respectively. However, the U.S. had a large presence in artistic freestyle, where Axiom XP earned the silver medal after being edged out of the gold by France (always a contender on the artistic world stage). Russia took the bronze. The two other U.S. teams at this event—AZ Dream and It’s So Hilarious—took seventh and ninth.
The competition wrapped up a day early, which gave the officials and competitors an opportunity to visit local Arizona tourist attractions or stay on site and participate in a 10-way scrambles FS speed competition. A few judges stayed at the drop zone to help officiate, and the scrambles format (the team members were drawn from a hat) gave the participants—who hailed from different teams, disciplines and nations—an excellent opportunity to get to know one another and develop lasting friendships. The newly bonded competitors then ended an amazing week by attending a medal ceremony and grand banquet in Skydive Arizona’s DC-3 hangar.