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OK, and first of all, I do feel somehow ignorant sometimes when I bring attention once again to our sport's top teams. They get all the attention and all the support and sponsor-ships, so why do I have to give them additional attention? Well, because the top competition is the most exciting part of the sport - in all sports - and the top athletes are role models for the rest of us.
On top of that, I don't feel bad because I give the rest of the 4-way community plenty of attention on a daily basis. The Sun Path Products NSL News at SKYLEAGUE.COM definitely covers all of the 4-way categories, from the Rookie Class beginner level to the last place on the AAA Class leaderboard. So please allow me one more time to discuss the top teams.
The founders and original members, JaNette and Steve Lefkowitz, had not seen any U.S. team defeat Arizona Airspeed in their Rhythm careers. They launched Rhythm the year after the last U.S. team finished ahead of Airspeed and became 4-way world champions in 2006, DeLand Fire. Airspeed's Odyssey lineup of 2007 then took back the U.S. top spot, and the following Airspeed lineups have defended this top position successfully ever since—until February 2017.
That's interesting enough; however, I would like to dig deeper into it since there is so much more to the current Rhythm-Airspeed situation.
USPA Nationals 2006
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The results at the upcoming Shamrock Showdown in DeLand will tell much more where both teams are. However, the outcome in Raeford surely was a psychological boost for the challenger.
The psychology of the situation can be dangerous though, even though the four Rhythm academics (MIT/Virginia Tech) are smart enough to know the work is not finished yet. There is no room for any complacency.
Rhythm did not beat Airspeed at Paraclete with an impressive new team record average or an extraordinary and outstanding performance. In fact, Rhythm had posted higher meet averages at earlier indoor meets. The reason why Rhythm finished ahead of Airspeed for the first time is that the reigning U.S. 4-way champion is at the beginning stage of their new lineup.
Paraclete XP Indoor 2017
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The topic of the Airspeed makeover brings up the most intriguing part of the story, where the pressure turns back onto the Airspeed side. Airspeed's current lineup includes two former Rhythm members, Thiago Gomes and Mikhail Markine. Both left Rhythm when they received the Airspeed invitations in 2013 (Thiago) and 2015 (Mikhail). They saw better chances to become 4-way world champions in Arizona, and Rhythm had to rebuild their lineup twice.
Rhythm is now in the second year with Andrew Happick and Doug Barren, who did not consider moving to Arizona and were not invited when Airspeed needed a new member at the end of the 2016 season. Airspeed, with former Rhythm members Thiago Gomes and Mikhail Markine, have now lost their first competition against their former team mates with a new lineup and will have to work hard for a chance to compete for gold medals at the next world championships. Now, that is an interesting angle of the whole situation, isn't it? The Shamrock Showdown begins in five days...