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Did You Know...

... that Arizona Airspeed celebrates the 20-year anniversary in May?

Original Arizona Airspeed lineup
posted Feb 18th, 2014 - The 2014 season is a very challenging one for Arizona Airspeed. The reigning 4way world champions, with two new members after the Mondial Dubai 2012, have to defend the gold medals against the charging NMP-PCH Hayabusa who came back with the same lineup.

Hayabusa ended up only one single point behind Airspeed in Dubai and had a significantly better starting point into the new 2-year cycle. However, Airspeed is the defending champion, and both teams have more than enough pressure to deal with. France, with two 4way world champions of 2010, has become the underdog for the gold medals.

The 2014 season still has another big meaning for Arizona Airspeed, as well. It will bring the 20-year anniversary celebration of a unique team project that was launched in 1994. The Sun Path Products NSL News had the opportunity for a live conversation with Mark Kirkby, who is one of the four founding members.

Mondial Dubai 2012Rd. 1Rd. 2Rd. 3Rd. 4Rd. 5Rd. 6Rd. 7Rd. 8Rd. 9Rd. 10TotalAvg
RankAAA Class5,12,E6,D,B,KO,8,7N,13,1810,21,M19,H,11C,G,1,A20,9,1516,F,P,Q2,J,4TotalAvg
1Arizona Airspeed (US)2734272223233225402627927.9
2NMP-PCH Hayabusa (BE)2534272123243227402527827.8
Gold medals at the Mondial Dubai 2012
The NSL Talk on Skype took place a few days after the Valentines Meet 2014 where Arizona Airspeed did not compete with the current lineup for the first time. The team members served as player coaches for several other teams.

It is also the 20-year anniversary for Mark Kirkby, even though he does not really see it this way. He was not with Airspeed in 2004 - 2006 and was technically only a member for 17 years. However, he became a 4way world champion with Arizona Airspeed for the first time in 1995 with a 20.7 average and is the reigning 4way world champion 20 years later, after the 27.9 average in December 2012.

Mark Kirkby knows the tail slot as no other 4way competitor in the world, and he will have to forward his knowledge to the next Airspeed tail at the end of the 2014 season, as he plans to retire as an active Airspeed 4way competitor.

Wind Games 2014Rd. 1Rd. 2Rd. 3Rd. 4Rd. 5Rd. 6Rd. 7Rd. 8Rd. 9Rd. 10TotalAvg
RankAAA ClassC,20,1716,A,D,7J,P,13,LN,21,22M,8,15K,3,6F,4,1B,G,H,O,105,18,9Q,2,12TotalAvg
1NMP-PCH Hayabusa (BE)2936332731302941322631431.4
2Arizona Airspeed (US)3235302732263238322130530.5
Arizona Airspeed's 2013/2014 lineup
Retiring will not come easily, especially not after possibly winning another gold medal. Mark Kirkby has tried to end his 4way career as a top competitor before, and it did not work. He explained after the recorded conversation that the sport of Formation Skydiving competition allows athletes to maintain the top performance level longer than in other sports.

The mental skills and the ability to train quick reactions during the performance are relevant and crucial components for being a top 4way competitor, and they don't fade much at all with aging. There is no reason why Mark Kirkby could not continue to win gold medals for another decade.

He still does not plan for that, and he wants to retire when the Airspeed project is in good shape. He sees the potential for continuation of the great leadership that Arizona Airspeed has always forwarded from one generation of competitors to the next one. It's a good time to step back, he says.

Never lost in DeLand: Arizona Airspeed members
Arizona Airspeed's 20-year anniversary celebration and his own incredible 4way and 8way career with the looming retirement is still not high on Mark Kirkby's priority list at the moment. The 2014 world meet season will challenge his team once again to the extreme, and he will "fight for his life" one more time.

NMP-PCH Hayabusa won the first showdown at the Wind Games in January, and the next indoor confrontation is coming up very soon at the Paraclete XP Indoor Championship 2014. Niklas Hemlin said after losing the World Challenge 2012 and before winning gold in Dubai that "you don't win a world meet in the wind tunnel".

However, teams have always taken the world meet gold medals after winning at the Paraclete XP Outdoor Championship, and that event is coming up very soon in DeLand, exactly one week after the indoor showdown in Raeford...

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