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Up Close & Personal

name: John Hoover

email: HOOVMAN7@aol.com

age: 55

education: High School

family & marital staus: Married, wife’s name is Sara

number of jumps: 5,725

years in Sport: 31

teams: Golden Knights

slot(s): Eight-way, front float / point, 4-way, outside center

favorite competition: America’s cup in Deland, Fl. 1998

skydiving mentor(s): No one person has displayed all of the traits that I would like to possess as a skydiver, but by taking the best from the people that I have met, I have formed the ideal jumper in my head which I aspire to be.

hobbies: Reading, writing, computers, weightlifting, golf and hunting

favorite book(s): The Bible, it has made me the person I am and I learn something form it everyday.

favorite movie(s): Raiders of the Lost Ark

favorite place: Back home on the farm, in Plant City, Fl.

Where will you be ten years from now? I hope that I will be back home working on the farm, raising cattle and oranges.

favorite quote:

"Contentment is the only true form of happiness"

Everybody who has read the latest Skydiving magazine is probably familiar with the name John Hoover and his position with the Golden Knights. However, not many people would be able to identify the modest and quiet young man at a drop zone. People who have met him in person remember him. Hoover's kind and friendly appearance on the ground does not indicate his skills as one of the fastest, most accurate and aggressive performers in freefall. Conversation with him is always on a casual and relaxed level. He listens carefully before making a well-thought point. The combination of this relaxed mind and highest athletic goals have made him one of the top competitors in the world. Here is John Hoover's story.

In 1992, Hoover was attending the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg NC. Unbeknownst to him, the person sitting right behind him was none other than three time World Champion, Scott Rhodes. A few of the students wanted to learn to skydive and Hoover was among them. Scott Rhodes informed them that he and his friend Bill Cole were AFF instructors at Launburg Airport on the weekends. After completion of the AFF course, Scott continued to work with Hoover during the next two years with one-on-ones and video. In 1994, after one previous attempt, Hoover was allowed to attend the Golden Knights tryout program. His arrival to the Knights signaled a legend’s departure, Craig Girard. The slot Girard left open on the eight-way team gave Hoover the unique opportunity to try out directly for the Competition Team without first doing a tour on a Demonstration Team. Another slot needed to be filled on the team as well and this signaled the return of Scott Rhodes. Two and a half years after completing AFF, instructor and student found themselves on the same team training for the World Championship.

The road was long and difficult. The French team had beat the Golden Knights by 28 points at the last competition where they faced each other. The Knights not only had to close that distance, they had to do it with a new guy that was going to have 1500 jumps come meet time. It is impossible to describe all that happened that year and at the meet, but the Golden Knights won by just one point and set a new world record. John Hoover doesn’t take any of the credit for winning the World Meet in 1995 in Gap, France. He believes that it was all due to Scott Rhodes and Paul Rafferty’s leadership and a lot of patience shown to him by his teammates, especially his piece partner Rob Work. With the continued leadership of Scott Rhodes, Hoover and the Knights won the 1997 World Championship and set two new world records at the same time.

Since that time, there have been ups and down for Hoover in the arena of competition parachuting. Most difficult was the Knights' loss to Airspeed in 1998 in Eloy. It was the first time since 1984 that the Golden Knights lost the U.S. Nationals to another team. Airspeed would represent the United States at the World Championship in 1999. However, the Golden Knights had a comeback one year later. Although Airspeed was already qualified for the 1999 world meet, the Golden Knights won the U.S. Nationals that year in Sebastian after a dramatic competition.

The year 2000 brought the most surprising events in Hoover's career. The competitions in 2000 and possibly the next World Championship in 2001, had Hoover facing a crossroad. In the middle of the 2000 season, he thought that this year might spell the end of his career on the Golden Knights 8-way team. Competitors are only allowed to stay eight years and 2001 marked Hoover’s seventh year. He would be forced out and not eligible for another World Meet. Hoover did not consider this entirely bad though, the rigors of training and competing for the Knights seemed to have taken a toll on Hoover both mentally and physically.

Hoover had never considered 4-way as a serious option for a Golden Knight. Although he always enjoyed the 4-way competition, the Knights' priority had always been the 8-way event. However, destiny had other things in mind for Hoover. Disaster struck again in 2000 when the Golden Knights lost the U.S. Nationals against Airspeed once more. This time, the upset was unexpected. Two years ago, Airspeed had trained hard and often. In 2000, Airspeed had not trained 8-way at all. This time, the loss of the 8-way title had much stronger consequences. Although Airspeed asked the Golden Knights to represent the United States in Spain, the Golden Knights headquarters changed their policies dramatically. The 8-way was history and 4-way became priority in Fort Braggs. The skydiving world was stunned.

Hoover had become increasingly interested in the 4-way competition anyway and was not unhappy with the decision. After the shock of the dramatic change faded, he was very excited about the new challenge. Now he is forming and directing the new Golden Knights 4-way team towards new goals. Team members are Eric Heinsheimer, Kurt Isenberger, Chris Talbert, John Hoover. The competition in 4-way will not be easier than in 8-way and there will be more teams on the same level of commitment and performance. This is one factor that has been inspiring Hoover.

However after the 2001 season, he will have six years left of military service before retirement, which he plans on completing. This means that he is eligible for another tour on the Knights after he has fulfilled other Army obligations. There are still medals to win in the 4-way event at the World Championship...

World Meet 2003 in France World Meet 2003 in France

John Hoover's NSL Profile has not been updated ever since the Golden Knights switched priority from 8-way to 4-way. His currently posted profile story does not even include one of the peaks in his career, the 4-way gold medals at the USPA Nationals 2002. It also does not mention his Army service in Afghanistan.

The NSL Profile was posted when the Golden Knights put John Hoover in charge to form a new 4-way line-up for the Army, it was the end of the 2000 season. The profile story still mentions that he recruited Eric Heinsheimer (Tail), Kurt Isenberger (Center Outside) and Chris Talbert (Center Inside).

Other NSL News stories followed up several times and covered the same Golden Knights line-up on their way to the silver medals at the World Meet 2003 in France. John Hoover was always a major contributor to the NSL News stories. However, this line-up discontinued after its last competition at the USPA Nationals 2003 in Lake Wales.

USPA Nationals 2005 USPA Nationals 2005
John Hoover was still in charge to recruit a new line-up for the next two years. Brooks Weiner, Brian Krause and Matt Davidson joined the new Army team, Kurt Isenbarger was the alternate, Larry Miller filmed the team. The 2004 season was a building year for this line-up.

The 1st place at the USPA Nationals 2005 was the main goal, and John Hoover's Army team finished as close to this goal as it might be possible. The jump-off for the gold medals between DeLand Fire and the Golden Knights in Perris made it into the history book of Formation Skydiving competition, and the NSL News brought this drama live to the NSL News audience.

The 2nd place in 2005 was also the end of John Hoover's responsibility as the team captain of the Golden Knights. The NSL News interviewed the new team captain, Brian "BK" Krause, in October 2005, who provided information of the Golden Knights future after the USPA Nationals 2005.

Afghanistan in 2006 Afghanistan in 2006
"John Hoover has left the team to go back to Special Forces, and Brooks Weiner will return to Special Forces in January. During the summer, both of them came down on orders to return to their Special Forces groups in order to support the war on terrorism. If we would have won the Nationals, those orders could have possibly been delayed until after the World Meet 2006. John has contributed a great deal to the Golden Knights and the skydiving community over the last 10 years and will be missed."

The 2006 season did not turn out for the Golden Knights as it was originally planned. The NSL News story on 17 October 2006 provided the details of the difficulties for the original 2006 line-up. The same story also broke the news that Eric Heinsheimer and Kurt Isenbarger would be back in action for the USPA Nationals 2006 and also for the next two years.

John Hoover was deployed to Afghanistan, as his former teammate Matt Davidson explained in January 2006, while he and Brian Krause recruited the new line-up for the 2006 season with Sean Sweeney and Angela Nichols:

"John Hoover was awarded the prestigious honor of Golden Knight of the Year, an honor that all current team members vote on yearly. The award was announced at this year's GK reunion in front of more than 300 former and current Golden Knights and their guests. Some former members included those from the original team in 1959. John was unable to attend as he is serving his country in Afghanistan. I let him know via email, and he said that he was a little choked up."

2005 line-up in the NSL office 2005 line-up in the NSL office
Brian Krause (Point), Kurt Isenbarger (Center Outside), Matt Davidson (Center Inside), Eric Heinsheimer (Tail) and Larry Miller (Camera) competed at the USPA Nationals 2006 (19.6) and made serious plans for the 2007 season.

The new line-up had a great start into the 2007 season with a 22.2 average at the FSL Shamrock Showdown 2007. However, new difficulties interrupted the flow of the Golden Knights of 2007. Matt Davidson injured his foot and had to take a break for a few weeks, as the NSL News reported earlier. Sean Sweeney filled his slot at the April meet of the Carolina Skydiving League.

It got even worse for the Army team. Eric Heinsheimer injured his neck the day prior to the same CASL April meet. He still made it through the first two rounds and then had to stop. It was a very unfortunate situation for the highly motivated Army line-up of world-class 4-way competitors and good friends when the injury turned out be more serious than expected.

However, the Golden Knights did not give up and looked for solutions. They found a more than satisfying way how to fill Eric Heinsheimer's slot. The NSL News story on May 25 broke the news that John Hoover was back to help out. This means that his 4-way career with the Golden Knights continues for now, and his NSL Profile needs a serious update.

John Hoover is in a different slot for the first time in his 4-way career. He used to fly the Point position of the front piece. He has now taken the Center Inside position of the rear piece, while Matt Davidson is back to the Tail slot that he used to fly in 2004 and 2005.

Original Golden Knights 2007 line-up Original Golden Knights 2007 line-up
The line-up with John Hoover had to make adjustments of the plans for the 2007 season after Eric Heinsheimer's injury. However, the new team already attended the May meet and posted a 19.8 average with the new rear piece. It is still the goal of the Golden Knights to attend as many meets as possible. Only the trip to the Malevsky Cup 2007 in Russia was taken off the meet agenda so far. John Hoover is only filling the slot for Eric Heinsheimer at the moment. It has not been decided yet whether he will be able to stay with the team or not. Eric Heinsheimer might even recover quickly and come back sooner than expected.

John Hoover will surely become familiar with the new slot very quickly. The upcoming meet weekend includes the June meet of the Carolina Skydiving League, which was on the Golden Knights schedule. The other US top contenders expect the Golden Knights to be back in contention very soon with this world-class line-up.

The 19.8 average of the May meet was probably the last time that the Golden Knights posted an average below the 20.0 mark. However, the draw of this weekend's 6-round competition will still be a factor on the way to a higher scoring average. The ten rounds at the Paraclete XP Money Meet 2007 on July 28/29 in Raeford will finally show where this Golden Knights line-up stands a few months before the USPA Nationals 2007.