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However, the NSL News will continue to fill in any news gaps with unpublished information from the past to present the history of Formation Skydiving competition since 1985 as completely as possible. This time, original Airspeed Vertical member Neal Houston is commenting the extremely competitive 4-way situation in 2002, when his own team, DeLand Majik and Golden Knights had to win the USPA Nationals to become the U.S. national 4-way for the FAI World Meet in 2003.
The three teams attended several different meets in 2002 before their showdown at the USPA Nationals, where the Golden Knights eventually won. Neal Houston also talked about his inside center slot, and he had some valuable advice for other 4-way competitors in the same slot. His all-time favorite inside center was Airspeed's two-time 4-way world champion Dan BC.
"Last month, the NSL News interviewed Golden Knights team captain John Hoover about the perspectives for the remainder of the 2002 season. This time, Airspeed member Neal Houston offers some insights about the countdown to the major events of this year. The interview was done today."
Neal Houston: From the very beginning, including the tryout day, since January 16, 2000.
NSL News: Has this always been your slot in your previous teams, as well?
Neal Houston: No. I was always Outside Center, since 1995.
NSL News: Looking back, which teams did you compete with through your skydiving competition career?
Neal Houston: I was on the Canadian national team from 1983 to 1985. Perris NRG 1995, Dallas Heat 1996, Arizona Edge 1997 - 1998, Generation FX 1999 and Airspeed 2000 to present.
NSL News: Were you born in Canada? Neal Houston: yes. NSL News: What did you do between 1985 and 1995?
Neal Houston: I moved to California in 1986 to take an offer to be on the Coors Skydiving Team. I also started focusing mostly on a career at Oakley and less on skydiving but was still involved with Coors doing a lot of demos. Some other significant events for me until 1992 were being in the filming of "From Wings Came Flight" in 1986 - 1987, being on the Seoul Olympic Rings dive in 1988 and the 200-way record in 1992. From 1992 to 1995 I only did about 200 jumps.
Shamrock Showdown 2002
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NSL News: What did you bring back to 4-way competition in 1995? Neal Houston: Some bad habits and not knowing how to creep.
Neal Houston: Yes, NRG at the time was the best 4-way I'd done.
NSL News: Things have changed in the meantime. NRG scored approx. 14-average in 1995, Airspeed Vertical now scores around 23-average. Where are the major differences between then and now?
Neal Houston: NRG averaged approx. 11+. I guess the skill of being able to know where your center needs to be and being able to put or keep it there, has increased.
NSL News: Let's stay in the presence now. Airspeed has dominated the 4-way competition since the Vertical team was found in 2000. Now, this year DeLand Majik beat your team for the first time in a 4-way meet. The Golden Knights scored a 23.0 average in the Carolina Skydiving League. And France scored a new world record last week. Are you getting nervous?
Neal Houston: No, and it's just adding to our motivation.
NSL News: The whole skydiving world seems to be excited about the great competition between the top teams. There is appreciation for more and tougher competition. Airspeed and Majik both travel to Russia at the end of this month for the second showdown this year. Are you better prepared for Majik than in March?
Neal Houston: We've done 400 jumps since seeing Majik. Once we're in Russia, we'll have less than two days to adjust to the time change, so besides that, I think we'll be better prepared.
Malevsky Memorial 2002
Neal Houston: The invitation to Russia came months after our schedule with the Knights had been set. We wanted to compete with the Knights because they are a team capable of putting us under pressure. We knew we'd get the same pressure from the French in Russia. The schedules of the meets were too close to do both, and we had to pick one or the other. Going to Russia seemed more exciting than going to North Carolina.
NSL News: No doubt. I did not know that France would compete in Russia, as well. This will be like a world meet. How do you feel about having such a high-pressure event so close to the very important U.S. Nationals 2002?
Neal Houston: We've had several people, including Kirk Verner, Dan B.C. and Jack Jefferies suggest that traveling half-way around the world for a high-profile competition a month before Nationals might not the best thing to do. However, we feel there is enough time between Russia and the Nationals to recover, rest and train.
USPA Nationals 2002
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Neal Houston: At any level, competing is the reason we train. Competition will bring out the strengths and the weaknesses out of an individual and team. Knowing what those are allows the individual and the team to incorporate them into their training and become a better team.
NSL News: Which team will offer you more competition this year at the U.S. Nationals: the Golden Knights or DeLand Majik?
Neal Houston: I don't want to say which team will be tougher to beat.
NSL News: Going back in history of 4-way, who would your all-time All-Star team consist of?
Neal Houston: I'm going to answer that in two ways. First, the four most influential 4-way guys for me are: Mark Vincent, Mike Zahar, Alan Metni and Kirk Verner. Mark and Mike preceded me on the Canadian national team and were years ahead of their time as far as flying technique goes. Alan provided tremendous opportunities for me with his involvement in Dallas Heat and Airspeed. And Kirk Verner is the most visually inspiring formation skydiver to watch on video. Second, My All-Star team would be Airspeed Vertical minus me plus Dan B.C.
NSL News: Neal, give us one slot hint for all the other center insides in the world, please. Neal Houston: See the point, feel the tail and trust the outside center. NSL News: Thank you very much for your time, Neal. And good luck for the rest of the year.