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Nothing has changed for me — except we are now facing a similar situation, and we are about to miss another golden opportunity.
Kids and teenagers and their parents on 4-way teams have caught my attention — and my full support — since the first wind tunnels were used to share the fun with a new generation of 4-way fans.
What at a great pleasure it has been to share the element with them, even if they cannot jump from planes. Many SKYLEAGUE.COM articles have been dedicated to the juniors in our sport, and many more will come, as new young tunnel flyers enter the sport on a daily basis.
It is nothing new or unusual that I see things differently than our officials in the sport. Fortunately, we have the freedom to create and express different views and often they even merge, modify and transpire into great results.
The officials felt like offering female 4-way competitors their own sets of medals in a separate category, while I appreciated the unique opportunity for girls to compete with boys and show that they can do it just as good or better.
There is no other sport I know where both genders have equal opportunity and potential to win in the same category.
|World Meet 2014||Rd. 1||Rd. 2||Rd. 3||Rd. 4||Rd. 5||Rd. 6||Rd. 7||Rd. 8||Rd. 9||Rd. 10||Total||Avg|
|1||NMP-PCH Hayabusa (BE)||32||29||25||25||33||25||22||18||26||29||264||26.4|
|2||Arizona Airspeed (US)||31||27||25||24||31||23||22||17||24||29||253||25.3|
|5||French Girls (FR)||21||25||22||20||27||21||18||17||19||24||214||21.4|
|7||Golden Knights (US)||22||25||21||21||23||18||16||15||19||24||204||20.4|
|8||Dubai Asaar Black (AE)||18||20||17||17||20||14||15||13||17||20||171||17.1|
The officials feel like separating the juniors from the seniors in the flying chambers, while I see it once again as a missed golden opportunity for our unique sport.
Nobody has separated the juniors from the seniors at indoor competitions, until our outdoor International Parachuting Commission (IPC) officials decided to become involved with indoor competition as well as outdoor.
This year's first officially IPC sanctioned FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships 2015 at the Hurricane Factory in Prague, Czech Republic, includes a 4-way junior category for teenagers between ages 14 and 17.
I am not happy with this development and I do not see the benefits for the sport. When the 4-way female division was added in 2001 the officials said they expected increasing participation in the sport.
|World Challenge 2015||Rd. 1||Rd. 2||Rd. 3||Rd. 4||Rd. 5||Rd. 6||Rd. 7||Rd. 8||Rd. 9||Rd. 10||Total||Avg|
|15||Bodyflight Black Magic||UK||12||8||18||10||13||10||7||13||7||11||109||10.9|
On the other hand, IPC officials and their media never pointed out the special achievements of female competitors who became world champions or won medals in the 4-way open class (e.g., Dawn English, Eliana Rodriguez, Arianna De Benedetti, Natasha Montgomery, Anais Maillet, Cathy Bouette, Sara Curtis).
Only the special attention of the other media outlets in skydiving recognized those incredible female athletes who managed to keep up with and outperform male participants in the same sport.
You may have noticed I included VFS 4-way where the situation is the same. Fortunately, IPC has not created a female category for VFS 4-way yet, which has probably not been done for different reasons (lack of participation).
Anyhow, and back to the junior topic, we are facing the situation once again: IPC is separating 4-way competitors from each other without a good reason. I don't see why a "junior" with enough indoor training would not be able to keep up with any world-class 4-way team. Just take a look at 15-year-old Yannick Bisson of the Canadian 4-way team 4Astrophe, who used to train and compete with his sister Valerie (18) and father Richard (definitely not a "junior"). He flies circles around "senior" 4-way competitors at a 20-average level in the open class competition. Do IPC officials really think he needs his own category?
|Canadian Indoor 2015||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6||Round 7||Round 8||Total||Avg|
|1||Parachute Montreal Fuzion||24||17||24||17||31||21||21||20||175||21.9|
The golden opportunity is the fact that EVERY BODY can perform equally in freefall or tunnel air. There is no other competitive sport where this is possible. How about using it as a marketing opportunity? We have never understood why we don't seem to be attractive enough to the media's and the general public's interest.
Here we are with a situation where everybody can participate and feel what it is like. And here we are with a sport that can bring all genders and all ages together in the same flying chamber. Incredible and unique.
Don't get me wrong, I still fully support the other categories (AAA - AA - A - RRR - RR - R) as they carefully move new competitors forward step'by step, according to skill and experience level. But girls and juniors? Let 'em in, I want to compete together with them. For now, at least I can still create "extended leaderboards" where 4-way open, 4-way women and 4-way juniors are one big family...