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Did You Know...

... that it was an exciting major event sprint to the 2016 finish line?

Blue Skies Mag: TURNING POINTS in December
posted Dec 15th, 2016 - FAI Mondial. ESL Championship. FAI Indoor World Cup. USPA Nationals. What an exciting sprint of major events it was toward the end of the 2016 season in Formation Skydiving Competition. I love it - however, not everybody was so happy about the event scheduling, and I fully understand.

I mentioned earlier that the ever increasing number of events has created a scheduling nightmare for teams and competitors. I was hoping that it would eventually sort itself somehow, since a well-organized structure is often caused by a previous chaos. It has not happened yet, but I am surely not alone any longer in observing the situation critically.

The major concern came with the FAI Indoor World Cup scheduled in the peak of the outdoor season. It was a great event, however, the more determined teams were not overly happy with the timing. They were either not able to prepare well enough for the indoor competition or had to give up important training time in the final stretch of the outdoor season.

4-way indoor and outdoor world champions: NMP PCH HayaBusa

TURNING POINTS: All I Needed for Christmas

Other than that, the actual competition at all events was as exciting as ever. The U.S. delegation came close to a Formation Sydiving Sweep at the Mondial, with gold medals in 8-way, 4-way Women and 4-way VFS. Only NMP PCH HayaBusa from Belgium was, once again, in the way. Arizona Airspeed was actually closer than expected and still not even really close with an 8-point difference. Who will be able to challenge the Belgians in the near future... ?

Maybe the three French 4-way world champions of 2010 (Julien Degen, Mathieu and Guillaume Bernier) together with former HayaBusa member Roy Janssen? They finished only four points behind HayaBusa at the indoor competition where they competed officially for France. No, that's not going to happen, at least not at an outdoor world meet. France has a new and sanctioned national 4-way team with great talent and potential.

The French Girls had their well-deserved redemption at the FAI Indoor World Cup after the heart-breaking finish at the Mondial, where Sophia Pecout dislocated her shoulder in the last round. She and her team were back in full strength in Poland, won the gold medals in 4-way Women and finished tied with the bronze medalist in 4-way Open. Three 4-way teams from France finished right behind HayaBusa...

SDC Rhythm XP: Chance of a lifetime coming?
Two weeks after the Mondial at Skydive Chicago, Germany's delegation for the European Skydiving League championship won the ESL Spirit trophy for the first time on home turf in Saarlouis, the host of the FAI Outdoor World Cup 2017.

Last but not least, the USPA Nationals finished off this stretch of major events in September and October. There are many stories to tell, and I don't know where to start. Okay, top to bottom.

Arizona Airspeed finished far ahead of SDC Rhythm XP, even though the lineup was not the same as in Ottawa. Josh Hall made room again for Mikhail Markine after helping out at the Mondial, and the former Rhythm member did not show any weakness for a potential Rhythm opportunity. He was obviously fully recovered and well prepared for his comeback.

Arizona Airspeed exit with Outside Center Thomas Hughes
However, the biggest challenge is still to come up for Airspeed. Thomas Hughes finished his competition career in the active Airspeed lineup with another USPA gold medal, after the second consecutive silver medal at the FAI Mondial 2016 a month earlier.

Thomas Hughes has been Airspeed's heart and soul for several years, and he has also put a new stamp on the outside center slot. He has not only been the king of the tunnel and one of the most gifted skydivers in the history of the sport, his exit strength and technique has been the perfect example for all other 4-way competitors in the same slot. Airspeed has a lot of work coming up to replace Thomas and it will be interesting to see how Ari Perelman will master the challenge for and the pressure on the new member.

He does not have to replace Thomas Hughes in the same slot though. Niklas Hemlin, inside center in the 2011-2012 and 2015-2016 seasons, will bring all of his own strength and experience to continue with Airspeed's outside center quality.

USPA Intermediate Class champions: Seattle Swift
SDC Rhythm XP is counting on a little setback for the U.S. top team of the last decade. The chance of the Rhythm lifetime is coming up, as the same 2016 lineup is going into its second year, while Airspeed has a significant makeover. It feels like a now or never, and the Shamrock Showdown 2017 in March will be the new starting line for both teams.

USPA's new Advanced Class champion (Skydive Midwest NEXT) left the rest of the field in the dust and easily outscored the former Advanced Class champions in the Open Class, Spaceland Lite and Dallas 350. Once again: Why are we missing the excitement of taking on the defending champions...?

I saved the best for last. Five of the six top teams in the Intermediate Class have been regulars at the regional NSL events, where they collected enough competition experience to be solid at the national championships. It gets even better; the teams in first and second place have grown out of the Indoor Cloud League/Tunnel Kicker program of the National Skydiving League. Ahhhhh, that feels good, and it's all I needed for Christmas...

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