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Did You Know...

... that the Czech 4-way story is like a fairy tale?

Blue Skies Mag
posted Aug 13th, 2015 - I did not even know there was 4-way competition in the Czech Republic before I met Jan Klapka. That was more than 10 years ago, when he visited DeLand with his 4-way team, the Bad Boys.

We had connected before we met in person, as he was very interested in the National Skydiving League and its international 4-way network. In fact, together we had prepared the first season of the Czech Republic Skydiving League in 2005 before we shared our first beer in DeLand.

I was born and raised in Germany, when there was no Czech Republic; Czechoslovakia was our neighboring country when I grew up, and I still remember the trouble with Russia in 1968. Then I visited Prague in 1976 to play fussball (soccer) in friendly games with Czech teams, and I was impressed by the friendly people and the beautiful city.

German 4-way team at the World Meet 1989

TURNING POINTS: The Czech 4-way Fairy Tale

There was still no Czech Republic when I made my first skydive in 1980. In fact, there was also not the same Germany we know now. I had to drive four hours from Berlin to get to the nearest drop zone where we were allowed to jump from planes. We could not use the air space over Berlin, which was reserved for only U.S., British, French and Russian forces.

There was no 4-way in Czechoslovakia, probably only military style and accuracy training and competition, as in most countries of the eastern bloc at that time. Czechoslovakia was still occupied by Russia when a Czech 4-way team competed for the first time at a World Championship of Formation Skydiving.

That happened in Empuriabrava, Spain, in 1989, which was my own third world meet with the German national team. It was the same year the Berlin Wall fell and the government of Czechoslovakia collapsed.

Czech team SkyService at the World Meet 2006
The Czech Republic eventually became an independent country in 1993, and it took four years until the next 4-way team from the Czech Republic competed at the World Meet 1997 in Turkey. No Czech team traveled to Australia in 1999, and the visits to world meets still happened only randomly until 2006, when team Sky Service, with current Bad Boys member Jan Lukavec, competed in Gera, Germany.

Sky Service dominated the first years of the Czech Republic Skydiving League, while Jan Klapka patiently created a solid foundation of 4-way teams and made the first 4-way steps (5.3 average in May, 2005) with his Bad Boys.

Fast forward a decade: The Czech Republic now has between 10 and 15 active 4-way teams who compete on a regular basis at their own indoor and outdoor meets. The Bad Boys, with Jan Lukavec and Jan Klapka in the lineup, is the national 4-way team and performs at a 15-average outdoor and 20-average indoor level. They are the official FAI Indoor World Cup champions of 2014 and are posting the highest AAA and AA Class scores of the Indoor Cloud League month by month.

Bad Boys in 2005
The skydiving center in Prostejov hosted the World Championship of Formation Skydiving 2014 and the Hurricane Factory in Prague welcomes teams to the first FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships in October.

Wow, I am exhausted just following this ever-increasing pace of evolution in Jan Klapka's Czech indoor and outdoor skydiving world. He also helped launch the Indoor Cloud League and the European Tunnel League (ETL) which was the first step in creating the World Tunnel League (WTL) that has been in the works since our last meeting in DeLand a few years ago.

He has set up a perfect 4-way world in his country, where teams have a regular competition schedule at the Hurricane Factory during the winter season and at different Czech drop zones throughout the summer. The monthly Indoor Cloud League events support the recruiting efforts of new teams and the indoor training for everybody. There is no lack of 4-way activities in the Czech Republic now.

Click here to connect on the Clash of Champions Facebook page
Bad Boys in 2015
It takes a lot of passion and energy to maintain a project like this, and Jan Klapka has both. He also has perfect support of his family. His wife Jirina Klapkova trains and competes with the Czech national team in 4-way women, the CZ Ladies. His son, Jakub Klapka, and daughter Klara Sotonova trained and competed together with an indoor 4-way lineup; Jakub is also an outdoor 4-way competitor.

The Klapka family has not formed their own 4-way team yet, as they are competitive with their own teams. However, the whole family obviously shares the same passion for skydiving, indoor flying and 4-way competition. Father and husband Jan seems to have the most energy, as he continues to be involved in all areas and keeps guiding the Czech 4-way community, now a solid part of the world's formation-skydiving community.

The Czech Republic, with a population of roughly 12 million people, probably does not have the potential to become a formation-skydiving powerhouse like the U.S., France or Russia. However, Belgium is a small country as well, and has produced the reigning 4-way world champions, NMP-PCH Hayabusa. There is no reason another country could not do the same. Maybe it will be the Klapka family in a few years...

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