Afternoon rains, gusty winds and low clouds greeted the competitors who arrived at Skydive Pretoria in South Africa in the weeks before the 10th Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Cup of Canopy Piloting. Most national teams—including the U.S. Team—arrived early for the November 20-24 event to get a chance to accustom themselves to the DZ’s landing area and altitude (which is 4,095 feet above sea level). Though the conditions during the training days were challenging, the competitors took advantage of every window of opportunity they could to get in some runs.
Unfortunately, U.S. Team member Matt Shull broke his forearm on November 15 during an awkward landing on a practice distance run. After a trip to the emergency room (and some wrangles over issues having to do with foreign health-insurance policies), Shull received surgery that evening to repair the break. With five days to go before the start of the event, USPA Director of Competition Steve Hubbard and Head of Delegation Karl Meyer conferred by phone and invited canopy pilot Beau Reibe to join the team in Shull’s stead. Naturally, he accepted and hopped on a plane to begin the long journey. In the meantime, Shull showed drive, energy and the spirit of teamwork by stepping into the team manager role for the rest of the event. He proved a valuable resource for the team by videoing competitors’ runs, assisting in manifesting and helping out with all sorts of general tasks to keep the U.S. delegation’s operations running smoothly.
The DZ ran the event as efficiently as possible, despite facing some challenges (not the least of which was the weather). The staff communicated well and was very responsive to feedback from competitors. Meet Director Angelique Pierry-Sharman made use of WhatsApp to provide start times, updates and other information to the team members, which was very effective.
Rain and low clouds plagued the first day of competition and the first round, zone accuracy, proceeded at a stop-and-go pace. Landing conditions proved very tricky and after some athletes crashed hard, some of the national delegations convinced the meet director and event judge to stop the action with the round about 50-percent complete.
Despite a few injuries (including U.S. competitor Alex Hart cutting his face after a tumble in the last round of speed), the meet went as smoothly as can be expected considering the weather delays. In round two of speed, Greg Windmiller scored a world-record-breaking 1.960-second run over the 70-meter course. However, his reign as the fastest swooper in the world was short lived, as Mario Fattoruso from Italy put in a 1.943-second run in the third round of speed. Also, during the first round of the speed event, Robin Jandle, in her debut as a member of the U.S. Team, broke the North American Women’s Record for Fastest Time Over a 70-Meter Course (set by teammate Jeannie Bartholomew at a previous competition) with a score of 2.465 seconds and then broke her own record with 2.333 seconds in round three.
At the end of the canopy piloting event, the U.S. walked away with five silver medals: Curt Bartholomew earned silver in speed, distance, accuracy and overall, and the U.S. Team took silver in the Combined National Team Champion category. Cedric Veiga Rios from France took the overall gold with a gold in both distance and speed and a 10th place finish in accuracy. Along the way, he set a world distance record of 183.47 meters. Team France took the combined gold.
Following the canopy piloting events, freestyle canopy piloting began. Skydive Pretoria boasts a very large pond, so the event was an exciting one that had the crowds cheering. Unfortunately, U.S. competitor Scott Harper had a hard landing that caused a concussion. (He has now recovered, but it literally knocked him out of competition.) Despite Harper’s unfortunate accident, the U.S. Team put in a great showing, taking half of the top spots with five members placing in the top 10. Curt Bartholomew took the gold (closely trailed by his wife, Jeannie, who took fourth place), Max Kossidowski from Germany secured silver, and Abdulbari Qubaisi from the United Arab Emirates took bronze.
Although the meet was challenging from a weather perspective, the drop zone did its very best to ensure everything ran smoothly. The U.S. delegation kept everyone’s spirits up and received widespread praise for being the best sportsmen and women of the meet. Ian Bobo, Travis Mills, Justin Price and Windmiller went above and beyond to encourage not only their fellow U.S. competitors, but also members of other national teams, doling out smiles, praise and high fives for jumpers’ scores and runs. The event showed the world how the U.S. Team is comprised not only of good athletes but good people, as well.
A full scoreboard is available at the FAI results portal at results.worldskydiving.org.
Meet Director: Angelique Marie Pierry-Sharman
FAI Controller: Jasper Williams
Chief Judge: Exi Hoenle
Electronic Scoring Operator: Intime Scoring
CP Technical Course Director: Mike Teague
Jury Members: Gillian Rayner, Marylou Laughlin and Alberto Martin Paracuellos
Head of U.S. Delegation: Karl Meyer
U.S. Team Manager: Matt Shull