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Up Close & Personal
name: Thomas Spielvogel
education: Sports Teacher, Truck Driver, Wind Tunnel Manager
family & marital staus: Married, 14-year old son (2008)
number of jumps: 14,849
years in Sport: 43
teams: Maitre Albstadt, Möbel Krügel, Dädalus, EADS/Airbus
slot(s): All slots except Tail
favorite competition: German Nationals 1988 and 1998, FAI World Meet 1991 and 2004
funniest moment in skydiving: Naked tandem jump at night with some really good friends - but there have been a lot of funny skydiving moments like landing in a rear window of a parked car
skydiving mentor(s): Jan Rojek, Jack Jefferies
hobbies: Motorbiking, hiking, bicycling, skiing
favorite book(s): Everything with flying
favorite music: Pink Floyd, German pop music
favorite movie(s): Once Upon a Time in the West, James Bond, Top Gun
favorite place: All places where friendly people come together, providing good atmosphere, good vibes - which means drop zones. However, sometimes I like to be alone for early morning hikes to summits and to be at home sweet home
Where will you be ten years from now? Still jumping, helping young people to become champions in this fantastic sport and hopefully still being healthy
best kept secret: Still secret...
Well, it's shortly before the award ceremony at the German Nationals in 1988, and Spieli is celebrating his first national championship titles in 4-way and 8-way...
It is late at night a few years later, at his home drop zone of that time, Schweighofen, a few hundred steps from the French border, no-man's-land. There is a group of people that Spieli has called together for a special celebration, the induction of a new Brumm-Master. It is a challenging procedure, and after the successful completion everybody walks away with a stomach ache from laughing too much and too hard...
Hey, Spieli is calling, and minutes later a small group is running up and down the runway, naked, of course, under the observation of the rest of the DZ population. Stomachs are hurting again...
EADS, the German national team in 4-way and 8-way at that time, is visiting the Malevsky Cup in Stupino, Russia. There is an excursion scheduled for a visit in Moscow, and the return trip to the hotel in Stupino in a coach bus is delayed by very heavy traffic. No problem, the party continues in the bus, and Spieli ends up resting in the baggage area on top of the seats...
Life in the skydiving world alone is a good time for Spieli, and he celebrates it whenever there is an opportunity. The translation of Spielvogel is "Play Bird", and he was born to live up to his name.
I had my own pleasure to spend several years with him and in his world, until i left Germany where he still is. He alone, and sharing time as team mates and friends, would have been enough reason to live in Germany, next to my family and other close friends, but i had to go. Spieli staid, and he is still jumping, as well.
There is probably not an active 4-way or 8-way competitor in Germany who has not been coached by Spieli or at least got some free advice. He likes to share his knowledge and experiences, either in the hangar of a drop zone or over beer in the DZ bar, whether being paid for it or not.
He has a job and is not after the money. In fact, he has experienced the famous skydiving tale that the drive to the DZ is the most dangerous part of skydiving.
One of his drives to or from a DZ for his job as a trucker included an accident that almost cost him his skydiving future. He fell from the top of the truck while unloading and broke leg/hip bones badly. And no, he was NOT drunk...
There is not much hesitation for Spieli between talking about a fun idea and doing it. However, there is no doubt that a lot of beer was flowing after the Opel Manta stunt...
His first two teams (Maitre Albstadt - Horschtls) were the biggest trouble, as his mentor Jan Rojek was the founder of the Maitre project. Spieli and Jan were team mates and best friends who always competed for the better idea to have fun and do some crazy things. Alwin Ampssler, Kurt Gaebel and Horschtl tried to maintain a certain level of sanity, which was impossible, and they only ended up infected by the same fun bug.
However, this combination resulted in the two German gold medals in 4-way and 8-way in 1988, and Spieli continued to apply his own recipe for success in his next teams. And it always worked - still does. He competes again with the German 8-way team at this year's world meet.
He has gone through all the changes in styles and techniques in his 45 years of skydiving that came along and required serious individual adjustments. He mastered all of them to still win medals in Germany and compete with other countries' amateur teams at the international events.
I have shied away in the past and until now to write Spieli's profile and skydiving history, as it would require a book to cover it all. However, the 60th birthday on 16 July 2022 and the next upcoming world meet are a combination that cannot be ignored any longer.
Just be careful when you meet him to congratulate, as he may have a great idea to have some fun...