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Did You Know...

... that female competitors are turning points the same way?

posted Sep 13th, 2013 - The first scores of the traditional 4way competition at the USPA Nationals 2013 will be posted tomorrow, while the VFS 4way teams are in full swing at Skydive Chicago.

The live coverage of the Sun Path Products NSL News will begin tomorrow morning. Paraclete XP is supporting the live coverage of this event, and the Paraclete 4way and 8way lineups will once again compete for medals at the same time.

The focus of last month's Turning Points column for Blue Skies Mag was on female 4way competition, and the Sun Path Products NSL News will continue paying attention to this topic in Ottawa. The USPA Nationals do not include a separate 4way Women category. The US national team, the Golden Knights, compete in the AAA/Open Class and will with no doubt qualify again as the female US national team for 2014. Several other all-female and mixed-gender teams will compete in all categories from tomorrow on.

First FAI world champions in 4way Women: USA lineup in 2001

Turning Points: 4way Girl Power

The International Parachuting Commission (IPC) has given us four different events in formation skydiving competition: the two traditional ones, 4-way and 8-way open, and two newer categories, 4-way women and 4-way VFS. 4-way open and 8-way open have been around since I was born as a skydiver in 1979 and were modernized to perfection in 1985. 4-way women was officially added to IPC events in 2001 and 4-way VFS followed in 2008.

I have never really come to terms with the IPC logic of those four categories, specifically between 4-way open and 4-way women, and I am still trying to figure it out. However, in the meantime I have learned to like all four categories, and I surely enjoy following the exciting competition in all of them.

Let me begin with the simple facts that confused me since 2001; you may stand wherever you want to in the argument for separating the boys from the girls in freefall. There is one thing that throws me off my logical balance: If there is a female 4-way category, why is there no male 4-way category?

Dawn English with FX
I don't mind having an open class where girls and boys can play together; that's great and almost like normal life. But why is there only a female category if our officials think that we should be separated?

This leads into the topic that had to follow, I guess. Why do we have to be separated to begin with? Well, we are not separated in the open class. See, that's why it so confusing. We are separated, and we are not. Anyhow, I have always been so proud of our sport for many reasons. One reason was the fact that girls did just as well as boys in freefall. It was like that in 1979, and it is still the same.

We saw the French female 4-way team Coca Cola challenging the best teams in the world 25 years ago—in the open class. Dawn English won the World Cup in 1998 with Space Center FX (Joey Jones, Doug Park, Christopher Irwin)—in the open class. Natasha Montgomery won 4-way gold with Fire in 2006, Eliana Rodriguez in 2008—in the open class. Not to mention Italy's Arianna de Benedetti and Norway's Lise Aune-Nansen who could have won gold at any time in their days. Satori's Jules Foxwell and Katie Woods are the female 4-way stars of our days—in the open class.

Natasha Montgomery with DeLand Fire
It is unique and extraordinary in sports that girls can keep up with boys when it comes to physical activities. We have it, and that's what I have been proud of since I made my first jump—while it was also great fun at the DZs, I have to admit...

Most other sports separate the genders for good and logical reasons, and they don't have an open class at the same time. There are strict rules in mixed doubles tennis, and there will never be a male double playing against a female double in their open class.

Freefall does not make a difference between a boy and a girl; gravity applies the same physical rules on both. Freefall and our great dive pool rules turn formation skydiving competition mainly into a mental game, along with individual coordination skills and, most of all, group dynamics. Skydiving offers girls the opportunity to show that they can beat the boys.

Eliana Rodriguez with Arizona Airspeed
There you go, it sounds like I am not a big fan of the female category, right? Wrong, I have become a fan of this event. I did not like it when it was introduced, and it is still confusing to me for all the above reasons. It makes as little sense now as it did in 1979.

However, I have learned to love it. I like to follow and write stories about exciting and dramatic competition, and the female category has added a lot of interesting leaderboards, content and footage for many colorful stories.

Should we also have a male category? Of course, and not only that, we should have official age groups for each gender. The problem with all those logical categories is that we will very quickly run out of enough competitors to fill them up. We are already short in our small freefall competition community.

4way Women medalists at the World Cup 2013 in Banja Luka
So I just gave up my logical reasoning and decided to love the girls and their female 4-way category. I don't care whether they call themselves 4-way world champions or not, even though their winning averages are far behind the other female top competitors in the open class. They are great athletes and compete hard in their category, and that matters.

We still see enough girls playing in the open class with the boys without looking back and showing the world that we have a unique sport with unique opportunities. I am watching Katie Woods now on her way to win medals at the next World Championship of Formation Skydiving with the three Canadian Evolution boys—while the Airspeed, Hayabusa and French boys will do their best to fend her off.

And then I am watching how the Golden Knights girls and the new French female lineup push each other to a world class open class level in the female category. And then I can always go back to the scores with the Sun Path Products NSL News and mix up the two leaderboards with a few strokes on my keyboard...

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