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Did You Know...

... that there are several successful world class family affairs??

posted Mar 10th, 2013 - The NSL News has mentioned the family connections and bonds within 4way and 8way teams whenever it fit to the according story. It has happened quite frequently in the history of the NSL News and eventually became a separate topic for the monthly column in the Blue Skies Mag.

NMP-PCH Hayabusa has two brothers in the lineup, David and Andy Grauwels, who plan to become 4way world champions in 2014. Marin and Martial Ferre did the same already in 1999 for France. Mathieu and Guillaume Bernier copied it again for France, first in 8way in 2006 and 2008, then in 4way in 2010.

Canada had the most amazing family team in the past years, Evolution with father Michel Lemay and his three sons Martin, Vincent and Benoit. As Hayabusa they have not been world champions yet, but the three brothers will try it in 2014, together with Katie Woods in the new lineup. Other teams see themselves as family too. What's behind it?

Andy and David Grauwels with father in Dubai

Turning Points: World Class Family Affair

The name "Hayabusa" is common knowledge around the skydiving world by now - precisely NMP-PCH Hayabusa, as the Belgian 4-way team has to pay respect to their sponsor, the Belgian Army. A Turning Points column last year (Issue #32, "Changing History") gave the team and its impact on the formation-skydiving competition world more thought.

Hayabusa has not only been special due to the small-country team's world class performance level. The fact that the Grauwels brothers, David and Andy, have been training and competing together since the team was formed makes Hayabusa an unusual and unique team situation.

Not so fast - it is not unique. There is a 4-way team that has even gone a step further. This is really hard to believe or even imagine, but there was a world-class team with a lineup of only family members. Yes, I am talking about the Lemay family from Canada who call their team Evolution.

Canada's family team Evolution in Dubai
Father Michel Lemay was the longest standing international formation skydiving competitor after winning 8-way gold medals for Canada at the World Cup in 1983 and again in 1984. Then he took fourth place with his three sons Martin, Vincent, and Benoit at the Mondial Dubai 2012 with a 23.6 average. Wow...

Michel decided to step back after Dubai, and his three young sons (age 28, 25, and 22) keep on going. Their goal is to become 4-way world champions as soon as possible. They didn't have any additional family members to fill the open slot, so they invited Katie Woods to become world champions together with them. She is of the same age group.

Did I mention France yet...? Brothers Mathieu and Guillaume Bernier have won two 8-way gold medals together (2006 and 2008) and 4-way gold in 2010. They recently won 8-way silver and 4-way bronze in Dubai, and they are not done yet. Together they will continue for at least one more year in 8-way.

Guillaume and Mathieu Bernier for France
Germany also has a share of this family affair. Max and Joern Thiele have been together in the German national 4- and 8-way lineups for many years. They made it up to the unofficial amateur world champion title in Menzelinsk 2010.

Hayabusa's Grauwels brothers and Evolution's Lemay brothers will be in the 4-way spotlight for at least two more years. It seems at the moment as if only Arizona Airspeed will compete with the two family lineups on the very top level where a 4-way team can medal at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving. France is re-building in 4-way without brothers or sisters, and other top contenders are not in sight yet.

It's amazing that two of the three top contenders have family lineups. Can it really be coincidence? Remember that brothers Marin and Martial Ferre from France won 4-way gold medals together in 1999. Not to forget that father Tim and son John D'Annunzio just won the Paraclete XP Indoor Championship 2013 in 8-way. How about the other D'Annunzio and Verner kids who will soon fly circles around their fathers and brothers?

Germany's Joern and Max Thiele with father Helmut in the background
Arizona Airspeed will have a hard time defending the 4-way gold medals against the charging family-bonded teams from Belgium and Canada. However, the Airspeed members know that a 4-way team functions almost like a family. A well-functioning 4-way family with great group dynamics is a winner; a dysfunctional 4-way family has no chance at all. Talk to the Airspeed members, and they will tell you how much they see each other as family. All the top teams will tell the same. Well, some of them ARE family...

So it may not be coincidence then. You could assume that there is a good reason why family members combine well for a good 4-way team, or any team. Well, there are enough good reasons why this theory has quite some truth in it.

The top teams in the world are spending a lot of time together. A lot. They train together, travel together, administer their lives together to match all five different logistics and individual circumstances. They live together like a family when they are traveling, from breakfast to brushing their teeth at night. They deal with the same issues and sometimes with problematic interactions, and they always have to find a solution and move on. Divorce is a disaster like in real life and cannot be an option if a team wants to win.

Arizona Airspeed with Eliana Rodriguez and Craig Girard in 2008
Now, does that sound like real family life or what?

Siblings know how to deal with each other, as couples do (check out 4-way world champions Eliana Rodriguez and Craig Girard) and their parents know how the family works as well. Thus, it might not be a coincidence, and it could even be an advantage if family members get together on a 4-way team. Very often, the spouses and children of skydivers turn into skydivers too, and they are familiar with the environment. The door to family lineups then opens when talent and interest go in the same direction. We will have the next two years to follow the Hayabusa, Evolution, and Airspeed families on their way to the next World Championship of Formation Skydiving. It will be interesting to see whether the Belgian and Canadian biological families have an advantage over the Airspeed family project. Airspeed families have won many times, and real French family teams have too - Belgium and Canada not yet...

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