Mark Kirkby, Thomas Hughes, Niklas Hemlin and Josh Hall, with Bill Schmitz on camera, never lost an outdoor competition in this 2-year period. NMP-PCH Hayabusa outscored Airspeed at the World Challenge and finished one single point behind in Dubai. That was close but not enough.
Niklas Hemlin, Josh Hall and Bill Schmitz then retired from Airspeed as undefeated 4way world champions. The Sun Path Products NSL News took a closer look at undefeated world champions for the latest Blue Skies Mag edition.
It does not happen very often that world champions retire as the reigning champions. I remember a few Golden Knights who sold their gear after winning 8-way gold medals. I would have to dig deep into the archives to find 4-way world champions who did not come back to defend their gold medals.
There are enough examples of 4-way world champions who came back and won again—or not. It seems to be the easier thing to do, and the right thing to do at the same time. There is nothing more exciting in sports than challenging the defending champions, or to fend off the charging challenger.
We have two recent examples in our sport. Arizona Airspeed members Niklas Hemlin and Josh Hall both competed once for the U.S. at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving at Mondial 2012 and then stepped back. Their careers with Airspeed were even more impressive considering the fact that they were never defeated in any 4-way outdoor competition between the starting point of the 2011 season and winning the 4-way gold medals in Dubai 2012. They joined Airspeed in 2011 and left Arizona undefeated in December 2012 after attending nine competitions.
Natasha Montgomery was another example not too long ago. She won gold medals at her first World Championship of Formation Skydiving in 2006 and did not come back to try again. Joey Jones also competed only once at a World Championship in 2004 and won gold medals with DeLand Majik. His three team members (Doug Park, Solly Williams and Gary Smith) tried again to win national championships in following years, while Joey Jones retired for good.
The Airspeed story is far from over, sorry for the detour. Two undefeated Airspeed members have retired, however there are still two undefeated members around. Mark Kirkby and Thomas Hughes are taking it even farther and will try to keep their winning streak going.
I have lost track of the number of gold medals that Mark Kirkby has won in his career. It is still even unique for him that he is in an Airspeed lineup that has never been defeated yet in an outdoor competition. Thomas Hughes had never won a 4-way gold medal at a World Championship of Formation Skydiving before traveling to Dubai with Airspeed last year. He has also never lost a 4-way outdoor competition with Airspeed so far.
However, the biggest challenges are still ahead for this Airspeed lineup, and it's a long road to the next gold medals in Prostejov 2014. Hayabusa, the new French lineup, Sky Panthers from Russia and Evolution from Canada each can't wait to become the first team to stop the two undefeated 4-way world champions with their two new undefeated team members.