Up Close & Personal
name: Alan Metni
• BA History & B.A. in Government
- University of Texas at Austin
• MPAff, Masters in Public Affairs
- L.B.J. School of Public Affairs J.D.
• Law Degree
- University of Texas at Austin
family & marital staus: Married to Meryl Metni for six years, daughters Ellie (2 years) and Mia (6 months).
number of jumps: 10,600
years in Sport: 29
teams: Deguello, Dallas Heat, Airspeed
slot(s): Inside Center
favorite competition: Nationals 1998, World Meet 1999, and Nationals 2000
funniest moment in skydiving: Watching Houston redirect Timko into his crappy Honda.
skydiving mentor(s): Jack Jefferies and Dan BC
hobbies: Playing with my children, skiing, building engines and computers, making things I come in contact with just a little bit better.
• Illusions - Richard Bach
• Meditation - Eknath Easwaran
• In Pursuit of Excellence - Terry Orlick
favorite music: Peter Gabriel, Stained, Tool, Eric Johnson
favorite movie(s): Stripes, Caddyshack, Matrix
favorite place: 10,500 ft. round 1, green light.
Where will you be ten years from now? Relaxing on a huge king-sized bed, playing with my 5 or 6 kids.
best kept secret: I don't know how to pack.
"...you know the guy, he does the meringue..."
- Kirk Verner
Some of the most interesting stories come from ordinary beginnings. For Alan Metni, reading a newspaper advertisement had a profound and lasting effect on the rest of his life. A young man on his way to becoming an attorney would follow a different path and become a world-class skydiver within 10 years.
In 1991, Metni read an advertisement for Skydive San Marcos and decided to try a tandem skydive. A lifelong love of skydiving was born on that first jump. Metni had no way of knowing that within a decade, he would become a world famous and well-respected member of the Arizona Airspeed project. Metni became an eager skydiver and joined the Texas Skydivers Club with the University of Texas after his tandem. He showed up at the drop zone on most weekends, getting in a lot of one- and two-way practice.
At the time, Skydive San Marcos was a two Cessna operation and the majority of the business was tandems. One year and 300 jumps later, Metni traveled to Skydive Spaceland in Houston for his first boogie. At Spaceland he rode to altitude on his first Twin otter and learned about the benefits of skydiving at a turbine drop zone. In 1993 with almost 500 jumps, Metni joined his first team, the 20-way team Deguello.
The team traveled to Florida for the U.S. Nationals and took home the silver. That first taste of competition was like that first skydive, Metni knew he wanted more. Back in Texas, Metni got a call from Florida to try out for DeLand Debris, the best 4-way weekend team in the country at the time. While Craig Buxton was chosen for the empty slot, the trip was not wasted. On the plane home from the audition, Metni decided he wanted to start a 4-way team in Texas.
Soon after the trip to Florida, Dallas Heat was born with Metni, Gary Beyer, Perry Knust and Pat Patton. The team received sponsorship from Skydive Dallas and Javelin. After 600 jumps the first year, Dallas Heat took 8th place at the U.S. Nationals. The next year and with a few changes, the Dallas Heat won 6th place at the U.S. Nationals. Metni said that Dallas Heat was probably the most closely coached team at the time, receiving instruction from members of Airspeed.
The third year, team members decided to get more serious about their training and decided to skydive full time. On weekends, Metni would drive from Austin to Dallas for training, a 3.5-hour drive. Metni quit his job as an attorney, sold his restaurant and got married in 1996. That year the team scored a 4th place win at the U.S. Nationals.
Dallas Heat had been a three-year project and it was the end of the three years. During that time many well-known skydivers had passed through the Dallas Heat ranks, including Neal Houston, Christopher Irwin and Kai Wolf. Although the team scoring was showing steady progression, team members felt they had taken the team as far as they could and disbanded. Metni had made the decision to move to Perris until Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld called him and asked him to join the Airspeed project.
In 1997, Metni moved to Arizona and joined the Airspeed farm team, Airspeed Edge. A year later, Metni found himself a member of the 8-way team. “All of a sudden I’m sitting in the airplane seeing all my heroes,” Metni said. “All the people I had studied and admired are now my teammates. It took a few weeks for it to sink in that I was on Airspeed.” All year Metni trained in 8-way. At the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Eloy, Airspeed handed the Golden Knights their first defeat in 8-way since 1984. From the U.S. Nationals, Airspeed went to the world meet in Australia and, once again, won the gold.
At the 1999 U.S. Nationals in Sebastian, Metni had moved to the 4-way team, Airspeed Purple. Metni and his teammates Craig Girard, John Eagle and Gary Beyer showed their skill in 4-way by winning the silver with an average of 20.6. Arizona Airspeed captured the gold with a 21.9 average. The Airspeed teams returned to Arizona and created two new 4-way teams, Airspeed Vertical and Zulu.
The Zulu team consisted of Metni, Kirk Verner, Christopher Irwin and Chad Smith. Steve Nowak was on video. At the 2000 U.S. Nationals, the Zulu 4-way team finished out of the medals behind Airspeed Vertical, FX, and DeLand PD Blue. Metni did, however, earn a gold medal in everything but the 4-way at the Nationals. His four gold medals included wins in 8-way, 10-way, 16-way and a combined free fall medal. The 2001 season has been one to remember for Metni. At the world meet this year, the Airspeed 8-way team lost the gold medal by two grips to the Russians in an exciting race down to the last round.
It was the first time in the history of the 8-way that anyone other than the U.S. has taken the gold. While the loss of the gold was significant, a bigger story came out of the competition. Airspeed, along with the rest of the 8-way teams showed the world what sportsmanship is about. The Russian team was 2 points behind Airspeed going into the third round, but a missed manifest call earned the Russians a zero from the judges.
Russia filed a protest because of difficulty hearing the calls and Brazil had missed a call on the same round. The rest of the competitors signed a petition to allow the team make a re-jump. Airspeed sat down together and decided that they would back the Russian team. Metni’s experience as an attorney was put to the test when he presented a their argument to the meet judges explaining the zero penalty was appropriate for situations of intentional misconduct and neither the Russian or Brazilian team intended to miss their manifest.
The judges were swayed by the argument and decided to allow the re-jump. “No one wants to win on a technicality,” Metni said. “We came to compete and that type of penalty would have removed them from competition and our reason for being there.” After the Russian team learned they had won the meet by one point in the last round, they grabbed Metni and tossed him in the air over and over again. Metni said that moment was one of two highlights in his career.
“The emotional story was – on one hand it was really good to see them as happy as they were, it was pure joy when they won,” Metni said. “On the other hand, a lot of people were surprised that we fought for their right. It is what we learned as young kids. It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. I would like to believe that most people in our sport would have done it the same way."
After the world meet, Metni retired from Airspeed. Although he now has a small law firm, he said he doesn’t think he’ll ever get back to full time law. Metni said he plans to remain in Phoenix for now and spend more time with his two daughters. “I’ve had a lot of things over the years that I haven’t had the time for - projects and challenges that I haven’t been able to pursue because I was working two or three jobs. Now I’m going to do those things,” Metni said. As far as Airspeed, Metni will stay connected by coaching in the tunnel camps and management of the business side of the team.
Airspeed is planning on expanding the tunnel camps in the future Metni said. In 2001, Metni turned the Americas Cup over to the National Skydiving League. The Americas Cup tour was run for three year with between five and eight stops a year. “I had a lot of the same goals as Kurt, but we approached it from two different avenues,” Metni said. “When it became apparent that Kurt was doing a better job, I turned it over and fully endorsed the NSL. I’m proud to see the growth and continuation of what Kurt is doing.” The Americas Cup tour has worked into the NSL structure and has become the Playoff events of the NSL Championship.
Metni has not regrets about the path that skydiving took his life. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. “It’s been a great run and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it. The camaraderie, the friendships and the relationships you make in that environment – you can’t get those anywhere else. It’s not the winning and losing, but the friendship and integrity. I don’t think I would have gotten that in another line of work."
Metni said the key to his success is the drive that has kept him going. “I’m living proof that if you want something bad enough and you’re creative enough to work out the obstacles, you can do anything. I do not think I have more natural ability than any other skydiver. If you work hard enough, you can pretty much make anything in the world happen."