Competing in Chicago 2016 - the perfect perk

2 December 2016

Written by: Sean Freeman: Assistant General Manager, iFLY Milton Keynes

Being able to compete for team GB, because of the skills I’ve inherited from working at iFLY, has to be one of the ultimate perks of the job.

I’ve worked at the Milton Keynes facility for nearly nine years now, and for the last three of them, I’ve been competing in skydiving with my team Freefly Euphoria. Last year (2015) was particularly special as we managed three bronze medals on the international stage, including the World Air Games held in Dubai.

This year we were fortunate enough to have qualified for the World Championships held at Skydive Chicago. The drop zone sits about an hour’s drive from iFLY’s Naperville location, it’s an especially nice facility, which we couldn’t wait to visit.  We made the most of our stay, arriving several days before the competition to train and enjoy the sunshine. That time flew past and competition time soon arrived.

Our team competes in the artistic category known as Freefly. This is not dissimilar from the demonstrations your Instructor performs at the end of a flight session when visiting the tunnel, the difference is that two of us fly together, whilst our cameraman films us. The footage is submitted to a panel of judges and is scored for presentation, technique and camera work. The competition runs over 7 jumps. Rounds 2 and 5 are compulsory jumps with predetermined moves. The other 5 rounds are known as a free routine, where we could choreograph ourselves.

Scores after the first round are telling. Positions don’t change dramatically thereafter, as the well-trained teams don’t tend to alter their performance on subsequent rounds. It’s only considerable mistakes, or a subpar compulsory round which cause changes in the overall ranking. Having the experience to know this only adds to the nerves before the first jump, but fortunately it’s something we’re used to dealing with now. If I’m honest, standing in the door about to exit the plane for round one is one of the best feelings and not so different from standing in the door at the tunnel before your first ever flight.

So how did it go? Well, we finished the competition as the top British team in our discipline, placed seventh overall, behind the winning team from Russia. It wasn’t quite the success of 2015 but we were pleased with the result. After all, for three lads whose flying skills originate from the early days of indoor skydiving, seventh in the world is not so bad.