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I guess that most of the people in the competitive world of skydiving are familiar with the name of Niklas Hemlin, or at least with Arizona Airspeed. Niklas Hemlin is currently the captain of the team that resembles 4-way and 8-way competition in the United States and in the world more than any other team franchise. At the moment, Airspeed is focusing exclusively on 4-way competition with the goal to bring back the world championship title to the United States.
Niklas Hemlin was in the lineup that won the last 4-way gold medals for the U.S. delegation in Dubai 2012 before NMP PCH HayaBusa from Belgium took over and won in 2014, 2016 and 2018. He had left Airspeed after winning the gold medals in 2012 and came back in 2015 to once again take on the Belgians that his lineup had defeated by one single point in Dubai.
He lost at the next world meet with the Airspeed 2016 lineup and then again this year in Australia. And he continues with the same lineup...
Niklas Hemlin just follows the same basic athletic idea. However, there is a big difference. Michael Jordan became one of the richest athletes in the history of professional sports. That's not really the case for any 4-way competitor, not for anybody in the skydiving world. So how does Niklas Hemlin do it? How does anybody do it in our sport? Where is this motivation, passion and energy coming from?
There is a simple answer, of course, and I know that one very well, after I have spent enough money for 4-way and 8-way training and competition in my own life that could have bought a nice house. It's a serious addiction to exits from a plane, the unlimited freedom of freefall and the following parachute ride, paired with a not comparable athletic and mental challenge that 4-way competition brings to you. Not even the fascinating 8-way event comes close to it, due to the less challenging set of individual maneuvers.
I have to admit that I can see how years and years of 4-way training and competition can bring you to a point where you feel like you need a break. I have dealt with it by switching to the other Formation Skydiving event, 8-way competition, for a while. It is different enough to make it feel like a break from 4-way competition. Different exits, different blocks and random formations, completely different visuals of the formations and maneuvers, very different group dynamics. I did it for a few years and then got hungry again for the 4-way challenges.
So you could toggle back and forth between the events when you felt like needing a change, and I would include 4-way VFS if I had the resources to learn it well enough... That all works of course only if you still had enough money left for more. Anyhow, now we are getting closer.
It was not too long ago when Niklas Hemlin mentioned in a conversation that his incredible motivation and dedication to 4-way competition was boosted when he made a pretty long and intensive excursion to the dark side (just kidding). He had his own way how to deal with the feeling that he needed a break after winning the gold medals in 2012.
Hear that? Yes, it inspired him to go back to 4-way competition. He was back in 4-way competition after two years on the dark side (I am kidding again - I am just jealous), and he has a plan with the current Arizona Airspeed 4-way lineup until 2022. I am still so impressed when I think about that.
Maybe I feel like I am not the only crazy 4-way addict on the planet, and it confirms what I have experienced in my life in the sport. It's the best, it's unique, and it is soooo hard to explain why that is. I have tried this before at the same forum here, and I always have the feeling that I cannot get it across. Still have the same feeling. But I try...
It is the fact that Niklas Hemlin mentioned how much he felt inspired to go back to 4-way competition after the freeflying excursion that made me think about this all, and there are two conclusions for me that stand out.
One: You HAVE to try 4-way competition for at least a year to get an idea and touch the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more in it that is difficult to explain without doing it. I have seen a lot in the sport, and Niklas Hemlin has seen much more - and he is still coming back to 4-way training and competition with even more energy and motivation. There MUST be a good reason for it, logically, right? Just try it...
Alcoholics can never drink again in their lives once they try to fix the addiction. That's not our situation. We are not hurting ourselves by still doing what we do (except financially...) Even as of finances, it is perfectly normal to spend money for recreational activities.
There is no need to hang it up when you come to that point. It makes me sad when I hear from people who don't jump any longer at all after spending a lot of time in the sport and loving it. Just do something different. Like Niklas Hemlin did. And then come back and do again what you love to do - 4-way training and competition.
And once again for everybody who has not done a team yet: Just try it. You can always give it up if you don't like it, right? There is a growing number of skydivers who have tried 4-way, and it is thrilling for me to see that they stick. Not a surprise to me though...