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Did You Know...

... that the Golden Knights are on track back to the top of 4-way leaderboards?

Golden Knights debriefing with Niklas Hemlin
posted Feb 6th, 2024 - The NSL News visited the Golden Knights 4-way team during the winter training at Skydive City, and the update on January 28th included NSL Live Talk with the complete lineup and coach Niklas Hemlin.

The conversation included the introduction of new team videographer Skyler Romberg. He has replaced Andy Sippl, who was filming the team throughout the 2023 season and has moved to different assignments for the U.S. Army.

Skyler Romberg was filming the team for the first time at Skydive City and provided impressive video footage from the beginning. The Golden Knights followed up on the NSL Live Talk with a copy of a training jump video that features the team in 4-way action. The 4-way performance of the Golden Knights is just as impressive as the quality of the video footage, and it shows the results of the cooperation with coach Niklas Hemlin.

The first video of the current Golden Knights lineup in freefall action is an appetizer of what can probably be expected soon in the near future, first time at the Shamrock Showdown 2024. Coach Niklas Hemlin will not be available at Skydive DeLand, as he is competing with Arizona Airspeed at the same event, and he knows that his own team will have their hands full to fend off the French national team in 4-way Open.

Golden Knights in 4-way Training at Skydive City, Video Footage Courtesy of Skyler Romberg
Golden Knights USPA 4-way champions of 2002
Arizona Airspeed and France 4-way Open are arguably the two best 4-way teams in the world at the moment, and the Golden Knights are not ready yet to match their performance and scoring level. However, the 4-way teams of the U.S. Army have shown often enough in the past that they match the world's highest level not only in 8-way competition.

4-way competition had lower priority for the U.S. Army when the Golden Knights 8-way team were in their "Golden Decade" between 1987 and 1997. They won six consecutive world championship gold medals before former Golden Knights member Craig Girard launched a new 8-way project for Arizona Airspeed.

The priority of the Golden Knights switched to 4-way competition when John Hoover, Eric Heinsheimer, Kurt Isenbarger and Chris Talbert were assigned to represent the U.S. Army in Formation Skydiving competition, with Sean Capegreco on camera.

The 8-way team was lower priority at that time, and the 4-way lineup went to full-time work.

USPA Nationals 2002
Rank4-way OpenB,12,2K,6,420,5,13D,Q,11,18N,3,9A,21,1622,H,L,JG,C,7,15E,19,1710,P,M,8TotalAvg
1Golden Knights1921192129222323221921821.8
2Arizona Airspeed1922182126222221232121521.5
3DeLand Majik1919202024222324221921221.2
4Golden Knights Black1517161720172020191617717.7
5Airspeed Zulu1718141722151817171617117.1
6Cross Keys Fluid1616131518161513151515215.2
7DeLand Frost1516121317151717141314914.9
8Ranch Tribe1414131317111610151313613.6
9Elsinore Adrenaline1313121316111513151313413.4
11Untrained Eye121211131410119121111511.5
12Team Kruegeraand8865676785666.6

Golden Knights 4-way Team at the USPA Nationals 2002
3rd 8-way gold medal for Jesse Stahler in Australia 2018 (4th from left)
It took the new 4-way lineup only one year to get to the top level in the United States. John Hoover and Eric Heinsheimer were selected from the 8-way lineup that won the last 8-way gold medal in Turkey 1997. Kurt Isenbarger was recruited for the 8-way team in 1998, together with new 8-way videographer Chris Talbert. Team captain John Hoover then selected them for his new 4-way team with top priority.

The Golden Knights won the USPA Nationals 2002 by three points over Arizona Airspeed's Vertical 4-way world champions of 2001 (Craig Girard, John Eagle, Neal Houston and Mark Kirkby, with Mark Steinbaugh on camera), which was a major and unexpected upset. The Golden Knights had now taken the 4-way spot away from Arizona Airspeed, as Airspeed had taken the 8-way away from the Golden Knights in 1998.

The same Golden Knights 4-way team competed for the United States in Gap 2003 and finished in 2nd place behind France. John Hoover continued with a new lineup in 2004 (Matt Davidson, Brian Krause, Brooks Weiner, Larry Miller on camera), and neither Arizona Airspeed nor Golden Knights won the qualification for the next world championship. It was time for DeLand Majik to compete for the U.S. delegation in 4-way Open. The U.S. Army's priority switched back to 8-way in 2009, and the next era of Golden Knights 8-way dominance concluded with four consecutive FAI world championship gold medals between 2012 and 2018. Jesse Stahler won three 8-way gold medals with the Golden Knights in 2014, 2016 and 2018. However, his new 4-way lineup could be on track towards the top of the 4-way leaderboards in the future, as well.

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