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Did You Know...

... that the Blue Spirits lineup goes back to childhood days?

posted Feb 13th, 2008 - The growth of the skydiving community may have come to a pause, however, the popularity of 4-way Formation Skydiving is still growing. The Carolina Skydiving League welcomed several new Rookie Class teams to its windtunnel competition last weekend, and the first outdoor meets of the 2008 season will provide additional evidence.

Not only the World Challenge 2008 will register record participation this year. The FSL Shamrock Showdown 2008 will break all previous records, as well. It is even more exciting to see that the quality of the 4-way field even seems to keep up with the record quantity.

16 teams from six different nations have confirmed their participation to date. The number will be growing in the remaining four weeks until the event date on March 15 - 16.

Blue Spirits in DeLand
Sweden will be represented by a new 4-way team, Blue Spirits, which will most likely be the new Swedish national team and compete at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving in France this year. However, Blue Spirits still has to win the Swedish Nationals 2008 and officially qualify.

The lineup consists of Johnny Andersson (Point, 42, 600 jumps), Jens Thögersen (Center Outside, 25, 2300 jumps), Ulf Liljenbäck (Tail, 38, 3700 jumps), Johnny Olsson (Center Inside, 42, 6000 jumps) and Staffan Linde (Camera, 36, 1700 jumps). It is a combination of the two best Swedish 4-way teams of the past years, Team 42 and Team Spaï. The NSL News reported the race between these two teams several times over the years.

Jens Thögersen, Johnny Olsson and videographer Staffan Linde trained and competed with Team 42, while Ulf Liljenbäck was a Team Spaï member. Point Johnny Andersson has never been on a 4-way team before.

Blue Spirits training jump in February 2008 - see video
Team 42 at the World Meet 2006 in Germany
Team 42 represented Sweden at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving in Germany 2006 and fnished with a 16.2 average in 11th place, tied with the British Army team. The Team 42 lineup of 2006 decided to discontinue at the end of the 2006 season. Jens Thögersen and Johnny Olsson explained that the 2006 lineup did not have the resources and time to move on. The missing perspective of progression to a higher level lead to the decision at the end of 2006.

Team 42 still competed in 2007 with a different lineup (Mattias Pålsson, Joar Stenkvist, Jens Thögersen, Andreas Wittbom). Staffan Linde was still on camera. New Arcteryx member Mattias Nord was alternate and coach. Team 42 won the Swedish Nationals 2007 with a 15.7 average over the same old rival, Team Spaï (15.1 average).

Team Spaï with Ulf Liljenbäck competed for Sweden at the FAI World Cup 2007 in Russia 2007 and finished with a 15.5 average in 10th place. Tobias Alsiö, Mikael Kaulanen and Mats Svensson were his team mates last year, Daniel Åström was filming the team. Ulf Liljenbäck remembered that Team Spaï had a good meet exept two rounds in Russia.

Blue Spirits training jump in February 2008 - see video
Team Spaï 2007 lineup
Next event was the Swedish Nationals 2007, the qualification event for the World Meet 2008. Team Spaï lost the competition against Team 42 after being up by four points through Round 6. It was the last competition for Ulf Liljenbäck with Team Spaï. There was not much energy and motivation left for new team plans.

Team 42 has always been the dominating team in Sweden. However, both teams had a very friendly rivalry over all these years of 4-way competition. It was still time for a change, and Blue Spirits was borne when 4-way veteran Johnny Olsson eventually called Ulf Liljenbäck to ask him about his plans for the future.

Johnny Olsson and Johnny Andersson already had a 2-way by then. They grew up together and have been friends since they were 7-year old boys. They were always in touch and both started skydiving in 1985. Johnny Olsson turned out to become of the most experienced skydivers and competitors in Sweden, while Johnny Andersson took it much easier and prepared his professional career as a lawyer.

Blue Spirits visits the NSL News
However, their time together in a 4-way team came when Team 42 and Team Spaï both had no plans for the near future any longer. Johnny Olsson and Johnny Andersson began talking about team plans after Johnny Olsson had left Team 42 at the end of the 2006 season.

They finally organized a 2-on-2 camp with Solly Williams and Shannon Pilcher in the spring of 2007 and were energized and motivated to continue somehow. They began to look around for the talent they wanted for the new team.

Johnny Olsson knows most of the Swedish competitors well. Team 42 member Jens Thögersen was his former AFF student, and Team Spaï member Ulf Liljenbäck was a good old skydiving friend. Finally, the four Blue Spirits members had their first meeting together and discussed the plans.

Interview with Blue Spirits
Johnny Olsson and Johnny Andersson were already prepared and had a plan, including the team finances. All team members remember that the first discussion was very productive and showed that they all had the same mindset. They decided to move forward and plan for 2008 in detail.

The spring training camp in DeLand will be followed by a windtunnel camp at Bodyflight Bedford this month, with coach Steve Hamilton). Gary Smith will again work with the team for two weeks in March. This camp will include the FSL Shamrock Showdown 2008. Additional tunnel camps are planned for April and May.

Blue Spirits will spend the summer in Sweden and has four to five more weeks of training on the agenda. The team hopes to have 300 to 400 training jumps completed before the Swedish Nationals 2008, plus additional 15 hours of windtunnel training. The meets of the Swedish Cup 4-way series will provide more competition experience for Johnny Andersson after the FSL Shamrock Showdown 2008.

Blue Spirits has a 2-year commitment until the end of the 2009 season. Long-term goal is to break all standing Swedish 4-way records, which is a 17.8 meet average and a 26-pointer posted in 2004 by Phenix, with new Arcteryx member Mathias Nord in the lineup by then.

The scores at the Shamrock Showdown will be important for Blue Spirits. The Swedish association is carefully watching the Swedish teams this year since the winners of last year's national championship did not continue with the same lineup. This year's championship is the qualifyer for the World Meet in August. The Swedish association has required a 14-point average for the national team to qualify in the past and mainly expects consistent progression. The financial support by the association will most likely depend on the progression of the national team.

It will be a tough challenge for the new national team since the Swedish Nationals will be held from a Twinotter (left-hand door), while the World Meet in France has a Pilatus Porter (right-hand door) as the jump plane. Blue Spirits gives the Twinotter exits priority, as the World Meet 2008 in France is not the biggest goal at the moment.

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