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Up Close & Personal

name: Robert Chromy

email: SamChromy@aol.com

age: 58

education: Tool and Jigmaker, Skydiving Instructor and Coach

number of jumps: 9,000

years in Sport: 41

teams: The Drifters 1988, Bad Medicine 1989, Unipart 2000, SunPath 2003, Equanimity 8way 1995, South African 8way 1995, Deland PD Gold 2000, Deland PD 8way 2000, Teiwaz 2003-2005, Deland Mojo 2004, Blue Skies Skyservice 2005

slot(s): Outside Center, Tail

favorite competition: World Meet 1995

funniest moment in skydiving: It has to be the time I organised a 4-way skydive out of the Porter for a student who had been training with me. Getting into position as inside center and going to launch the 4-way, I got somehow stuck, the other three launched. I got all the way out the plane. The seat belt that I'd forgot to take off prevented me from going any further.

skydiving mentor(s): Early years in South Africa: Bepe Piazoli, then Manuel Cordiero. In the USA as coaches: Solly Wiliams, Gary Smith

hobbies: Scuba diving, languages

favorite book(s): Everything by Wilbur Smith

favorite music: Johnny Klegg and Juluka/Savuka, Rolling Stones, classic rock

favorite movie(s): Happy Gilmore

favorite place: Hanging outside an aircraft ready to launch a 4way, the African bush

best kept secret: No secrets

Robert Chromy Robert Chromy
Few people know "Chromy" by his first name, and even fewer know that he was actually born in the old Czechoslovakia in 1965. Many skydivers who meet him on his many travels around the world are impressed when he mostly likely communicates in the language of the country that he is visiting or the people he meets.

Chromy is also mostly known as a professional and passionate full time coach and only a casual competitor on the side. Fact is though that he has a very intense competition career behind him, and he still cannot get enough of 4-way competition.

Jump student Chromy Jump student Chromy
Chromy left the country that he was born in after the Russian annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. His parents emigrated to South Africa, and that's the country he is usually identified with as his origin.

He started skydiving in high school. There were a group of his friends who had some bigger brothers and other friends who began first. Chromy's group only talked about it first. Then, one day in 1982, Chromy and his friends were sitting around drinking beer when Spanish skydiving great Ivan Coufal walked in with his logbook.

Favorite place: African bush Favorite place: African bush
Ivan Coufal currently runs the skydiving operation in Empuriabrava, Spain. He had just done two static line jumps at the Wonderboom Skydiving Club in Pretoria, South Africa. Chromy remembers that this was enough reason for him to get started:

"Well, the next weekend Gary Ebden and I went and did our first jump and then continued with a static line course. Our friends Norman Langeveldt, Manuel Crodiero and Laurent "Lob" Lobjoit followed within a few weeks."

4-way early in the career 4-way early in the career
The group of friends pushed each other quickly through the static line training and the freefall progression on round parachutes: "We were a bunch of 16- and 17-year old boys who always wanted to be the first to move onto dummy ripcord pulls and freefall. To be honest, my first jumps scared the hell out of me and without that challenge from my friends, I don’t know if I would have carried on and become a skydiver. I have to thank those guys for my early days. I would probably not be a coach in the sport if it was not for them."

The early days of his skydiving career also produced his unique nickname that everybody knows today. Chromy thinks that his name came out of the high school days in South Africa:

"In school we were called with our surnames by our teachers. This tended to carry on with our early skydiving instructor. When I first started skydiving professionally, I tried to use Robert, but then when my friends just called me Chromy. I finally just gave up and went with it."

National competitor Chromy with 1995 team National competitor Chromy with 1995 team
It is quite amazing that the members of this group of beginners eventually all went on to represent South Africa at World Championships at some point, and most of them are still involved in skydiving around the world. As mentioned earlier, Ivan Coufal is part owner of Skydive Empuriabrava, the busiest skydiving center in Europe.

Manuel Cordiero owns Icarus Air Wear and Skydiving School based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Icarus Air Wear was actually started by Chromy's first-jump partner Gary Ebden who died in a paragliding accident in 1994. Laurent "Lob" Lobjoit is chief instructor at Skydive Elsinore, and Norman Langeveldt still skydives, as far as Chromy knows.

Chromy got the first taste of his skydiving future when the World Championship of Formation Skydiving was held in South Africa at Sun City in 1983. His whole group of friends went there to watch, and Chromy remembers his own excitement:

"We all had only between 10 and 20 jumps, but we saw already what competition was all about, as our South African teams competed against Blue Magic from Switzerland in 4-way and the Coors/Visions from the USA in 8-way."

Chromy with South African delegation Chromy with South African delegation
The early and mid 80’s was a slower time for Chromy. He managed to complete only approx. 100 jumps between 1982 and 1985. High school and then army duties did not allow him much time for jumping in that time period.

He began to make up for the slow start in 1986. He worked as an apprentice tool and jig maker and jumped as much as possible. Chromy made his first appearance at the South African championship in 1987, came back in 1988 and became competitive in 1989. That was the time when Solly Williams and Gary Smith had their first team, the "Go Boys". Chromy's team "Bad Medicine" and the Go Boys competed for the third position that year.

South Africa had six teams with averages over 10 points at the nationals in 1990. The winning average at the world meets was around 14 to 15 by then. It was a very competitive 4-way environment in South Africa by then. Chromy's team "Unipart" came in 4th with an 11-point average. He also competed in 8-way together with Solly Williams' and Gary Smith’s team and finished in second place.

South African 8-way team in DeLand with Equinimity members Solly Williams and Gary Smith South African 8-way team in DeLand with Equinimity members Solly Williams and Gary Smith
The final career change came in 1991 when Chromy and his Unipart teammate Dino Procos decided to resign from their jobs, move to the USA and become skydiving instructors. They both went to Coolidge, AZ, where they completed their AFF ratings. Their first job in the USA was helping to build the current Skydive Arizona in Eloy.

This was the time when Chromy met Dan BC who was training with "Coolidge Fource". Dan BC would take Chromy and Dino Procos up for some 4-ways when they were not working on building the new dropzone. Troy Widgery, who was on the same AFF course in Coolidge, and Trevor McCarthy, who later joined the Golden Knights, were also doing 4-ways with this group.

Chromy and Dino Procos spent the rest of the same year working in Perris Valley and the Taft Skydiving Center. They were only allowed to stay in the USA for one year and had to go back to South Africa. They did not leave without stopping in Florida for a Turkey Meet event in DeLand. There the South Africans formed an 8-way team with Solly Williams, Gary Smith, Andy Robinson and Robbie Spencer who had come to the USA later.

The 8-way Turkey Meet was only a 3-round meet. However, Chromy still remembers this event as a milestone for himself:

"The Golden Knights were there with some new members. I remember that we scored one or two points better than the Knights on one of the rounds and were quite happy. However, in the next round they put us back in our place."

South African Turkey Meet 8-way team in 1991 South African Turkey Meet 8-way team in 1991
Chromy spent the early part of 1992 in South Africa. A group of skydivers made an attempt to run a full time drop zone near Sun City, a luxury holiday resort and game reserve. It did not work out as planned, and Chromy moved back to the USA in August 1992 where he spent most of 1992 and 1993 working as an instructor in Z-Hills and Clewiston. He remembers that the early 90’s was a time when a lot of South African skydivers moved overseas:

"We realized that it was possible to make a living in South Africa as a skydiving instructor in the sport. 1993 and 1994 became my busiest skydiving years when I made over 1000 jumps, mostly tandems and AFF."

South African 8-way team over Gap, France South African 8-way team over Gap, France
Chromy's South African friends Solly Williams, Gary Smith, Fred Whitsitt and Robbie Spencer had formed DeLand Equanimity and trained hard in Deland in 1994. Solly Williams decided to train with an 8-way team, as well, and asked Chromy to join. Dino Procos, Guy Fletcher, Paul Leslie–Smith and Kevin Schaeffer completed the South African 8-way line-up. The team trained for three weeks in Deland and then headed to South Africa for the nationals where it ended up in second place only.

Chromy had to stay in South Africa for four months before he had his interview date for a US Green Card. The World Meet in 1995 was held in Gap, France, and one of the 8-way team members could not go. Chromy filled the slot and did approx. 50 training jumps with the team in Spain, then the World Meet in Gap where South Africa made the second cut and finished in 6th place out of 16 nations.

Player coach team with Chromy and Norgie Torstein Valen Player coach team with Chromy and Norgie Torstein Valen
Chromy returned to Skydive Deland after the World Meet in Gap and has worked there as an instructor and coach for Skydive University ever since. He has also picked up more and more work as a 4-way team coach, which still keeps him busy more than ever before. And he likes his job:

"That’s what I still do. My work has taken me around the USA as a team coach, to various NSL meets and a few Nationals as a player coach. Being based at Skydive Deland I get to coach a lot of visiting teams or groups of skydivers in the winter. I also travel a lot to Europe and South America to do coaching camps with the groups that train with me in the Florida winters."

Skyventure Orlando keeps Chromy very busy, as well:

"Since the first SkyVenture wind tunnel was built in Orlando skydivers have realized the value of tunnel training. I started coaching RW in the tunnel in 1998, every year I seem to do more and more tunnel coaching with skydivers ranging from AFF students to competitors. I book about 20 hours per month, of which I fly at least a half. That adds up to about 100 tunnel flying hours per year."

Player coach Chromy with his Czech national team Player coach Chromy with his Czech national team
That's a lot of flying. Chromy books tunnel time for individuals that he coaches and flies with. He also runs tunnel camps together with other coaches from Skydive Deland.

The busy coaching schedule does not allow him much time for his own training and competing. However, he is aware of the value of competition for himself: "Jumping in competitions is very important to me. Since 1993, I’ve jumped at ten USPA Nationals, sometimes with a scratch team, sometimes as a player coach. In 2000, I jumped with Deland PD Gold and in 2004 with Deland Mojo."

Chromy's international agenda has recently brought him back to his country of birth. He has become the player coach for the national 4-way team of the Czech Republic. He still has his Czech citizenship and passport. His team "Blue Skies Skyservice" won the national championship this year with a 10.3 average and will represent the country next year at the World Meet in Germany. Chromy is happy with this result:

Casual time out for Chromy Casual time out for Chromy
"This brought some personal satisfaction, as no Czech team before has averaged over 10 points average. Also, I work with four other teams in the Czech Republic, which are all improving their averages steadily. Living in Deland, coaching alongside Solly Williams, Doug Park, Gary Smith, Shannon Pilcher and other top coaches keeps me in touch with what’s happening in 4-way, and it’s great to be able to bring that information to my county of birth."

Chromy has also competed for the FSL team Teiwaz in the past years, with several different and always flexible line-ups. He still wants to continue with the casual Teiwaz schedule:

"My current plans are to keep jumping in the FSL meets with Teiwaz whenever I can make it. Teiwaz is a casual team with a pool of over 20 experienced competitors, which get together for the FSL meets. It is fun to do these 6-round meets and finish with decent scores without any training."