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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.
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.
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.
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.
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...