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Did You Know...

... that USPA responded to Airspeed's Dubai issue?

Competition Committee Chair Scott Smith with Dan BC at the USPA Nationals 2009
posted Oct 24th, 2011 - Yesterday's NSL News story covered the situation on the top of the 4way world after the World Cup 2011, which was published in the October/November issue of the Blue Skies Mag. The story also included another brief preview of the Dubai Championship in December and Arizona Airspeed's experiences with this event related to the USPA decision of not sanctioning the arguably best US team as the official national team.

Blue Skies Mag also published two letters in the same issue that were only related to Airspeed and Dubai. The first one explained the situation from the Airspeed perspective, the second one came from USPA Competition Committee Chair Scott Smith, who attended the meeting where the decision was made and who responded to the first letter.

He said that Airpeed was responsible for the decision not to compete at the World Cup 2011 and that the seven members of the USPA Competition Committee "prefered to stick with the USPA rules", which can be found in the USPA Competition Manual. Here is Scott Smith's complete response:

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8way winner in 1999: Golden Knights

USPA Responds in Blue Skies Mag

"The anonymous letter you received was from someone who was not aware of all the facts. This person is upset that the USPA Board of Directors decided to abide by the rules in the Skydiver's Competition Manual and not make an exception in order to send Arizona Airspeed to the 2012 Dubai Cup. He or she is obviously unaware that when Thomas Hughes, a member of Arizona Airspeed, first contacted me about this same issue back in April, no team had claimed the second 4-way slot, and I offered to propose a waiver that would give that to his team. However, under the rules unique to the Dubai Cup only the "official" entry is eligible for prize money and medals, and Thomas told me that if his team wasn't eligible to win cash they weren't going to attend.

USPA used to select its teams at the Nationals right before an international event no matter how short the interval was. However, based on competitor input and pressure that was changed to be the prior year's Nationals. The most vocal team in any skydiving discipline proposing this prior year selection was Arizona Airspeed. This ended up serving them well when one year they lost the Nationals to the Golden Knights just a few weeks before leaving for the World Meet. Airspeed didn't, as your anonymous writer implies they should have, give the slot up to the Knights, but instead went on to win the World Meet.

Thomas Hughes with Spaceland Force in 2009
Of course this was a different Airspeed line­up than it is today. Their roster has changed many times over the years, and right now there is only one returning member from their 2010 World Champion team. For that matter, based on their make-up they could just as easily be called Spaceland Force, Team Fastrax or even Perris Fury. No question they are a great team and will be one of the top contenders when they compete in their first U.S. Nationals as a team next month.

However, those Nationals are barely three weeks before the start of the Dubai Cup. We had complaints from competitors a couple years ago when the USPA Board shortened the window to 60 days because some U.S. Team members didn't think that was enough time to prepare for a big international event. When a proposal came up on the agenda at this summer's board meeting to use this year's Nationals to select our official team for Dubai, not one of the seven members of the Competition Committee supported it, preferring to stick with our rules.

Thomas Hughes at the World Cup 2011, with Gary Smith
Anonymous asks, "Who knows really what went on in their meeting this summer? ..." and goes on to make the point that I am from Perris. Well I can tell you who knows went on at the meeting—the dozen or so people who were in the room when this was discussed, including Arizona Airspeed's sponsor Larry Hill, who is an advisor to the committee and was sitting next to me at the table. All of our committee meetings, like all USPA Board meetings, are open to all members. If Anonymous or any USPA member really wants to know what goes on at the meetings, all they have to do is attend.

Like your anonymous writer, I too like to see the stars and stripes waived from the podium. So they will probably be disappointed to learn that I also offered the new Airspeed line-up (although they hadn't yet competed as a team in a U.S. Nationals) the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the World Cup last summer in Germany. A World Cup, like a World Championships, is an FAI First Category event while the Dubai Cup is an FAI Second Category event. Although unlike Dubai, the World Cup wasn't offering any prize money and Thomas again said it just wasn't worth the team spending all the money it would cost to go over there just to win a medal.

I would have loved to see the new Airspeed line-up representing the U.S. at the World Cup this summer and at Dubai as well. But unfortunately we won't get to see that, because of their decision, not anyone at USPA."

Arizona Airspeed vs. USPA

Should USPA have sanctioned Airspeed as the official national team in Dubai 2011?

 Current Results
8way world champions in 1999: Arizona Airspeed
Scott Smith must relate to a situation in 1999 when he used an example to explain the USPA position. Arizona Airspeed was the national 8way team for the World Meet in Australia 1999 after winning the USPA Nationals 1998, but the Golden Knights won the USPA Nationals 1999 by two points. The competition at the World Meet 1999 began three weeks later, Airspeed went to Australia and won gold in 8way and silver in 4way.

The USPA Competition Manual relates to the "World Championship" in the selection rules. Scott Smith mentions that the Dubai Championship is only an "FAI Second Category event". However, the Competition Committee obviously decided to apply the same selection rules for the Dubai Championship 2011 as for an "FAI First Category event".

Top contenders at USPA Nationals 2011
USPA's Chair of the Competition Committee expects to see Airspeed as "one of the top contenders when they compete in their first U.S. Nationals as a team next month." It is true that this lineup will compete at their first USPA Nationals. However, unlike in 1999, there are many more relevant competitions these days, and Airspeed has attended four of them this year.

According to the results of the NSL Poll and the expectations of the audience, including many USPA members, Airspeed seems to be more than a top contender. In 1999, it was not a big surprise that Airspeed and Golden Knights went neck to neck. Such a close race is very unlikely to come up beginning this weekend, neither in 4way nor in 8way.

France and Belgium at the World Cup 2011
The other four top contenders now have to show at the USPA Nationals that they can represent the USA just as well as Airspeed has done it four times this year. France and Belgium will be ready with their best lineups in Dubai. Airspeed on the other side will be eager to show at the upcoming USPA Nationals that they would have deserved to be sanctioned as the official US national team. This means that they have to win as clearly as the audience expects it.

Airspeed member Thomas Hughes commented that he did not tell Scott Smith the World Cup 2011 attendance would not be "worth the team spending all the money just to win a medal". He said that Airspeed cannot afford to spend approx. $20,000 to compete at the World Cup, as there is no financial USPA support for the national teams and little from other resources. The situation is different in Dubai where the prize money can compensate for the expenses.

No matter what, Airspeed and USPA will have to learn how to work together, at least from here on forward. If the results next week are the same as the audience expects it, then Airspeed will surely be qualified to be USPA sanctioned as the US national 4way team for the major events in 2012. Then they could bring home medals and honors for the team, as well as pride for USPA and the Formation Skydiving community in the USA. Let the games begin and the leaderboard speak the only truth in Eloy...

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