11 December 2017
Written by: Claire 'Sparky' Scott - World Champion Formation Skydiver
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of representing the UK at the World Indoor Skydiving Championships at iFLY Montreal in Canada.It was a great experience that left me excited for the future of our growing sport.
Preparation involved lots of hard training with the British Female Formation Skydiving Team Volition. We have been together for 18 months and already have a silver medal under our belts from last year’s World Cup in Poland. Our goal for this year was to improve our average score and close the gap behind the very experienced and talent French girls. We knew we wouldn’t be able to challenge them for the gold medal, but there is always a great deal of satisfaction to be had from improving your own performance. During our training we drilled the 38 formations that could appear during the 10 competition flights, working on improving our precision and speed. The aim of the competition is to fly a sequence of formations as quickly as possible in 35 seconds. You are awarded a point for each formation and our goal was to beat our personal best average of 24.3 points. We also worked on the entrances into the tunnel and this is where training at iFLY Basingstoke proved invaluable as the door size and air flow were exactly the same as the tunnel in Montreal. Multiple world champion Andy Grauwels from Hayabusa, the Belgium Open Formation Skydiving Team, was our coach and mentor throughout, encouraging, advising and focusing us on our goal.
So, we arrived in Montreal feeling pretty well prepared, although still nervous which is natural, especially at the start of any competition. More than 200 participants from 23 countries attended, an increase from the last World Championships and the event was being viewed all over the world via the live streaming on the Olympic channel and the competition website.
We spent a couple of days flying in the tunnel, familiarising ourselves with the new environment. Spectators are just a few feet away from you, watching you fly, so at times, it can feel like you're in a goldfish bowl. This can add to competition nerves in a different way to outdoor competitive skydiving, where you have the luxury of being able to fly and perform the sequence of formations in the sky, without anyone seeing you at the time. It is only when the footage recorded by the videographer flying with you is aired, that people then get to see how you performed. With indoor skydiving, everyone can see the effort you put in, the expression on your face which may give away how you are feeling about the round, the way you execute the moves and the mistakes you may make as you fly that round. Your rivals may see you fly before they fly their own round, which can influence the approach they take. For example, can they take it steady or do they need to take risks to exceed your speed?
Everyone manages the competition in different ways. Personally I try and block out what’s going on around me. I prefer not to watch my close rivals flying and just concentrate on my own jump. Inside the chamber you are just so focused, everyone’s faces peering in from the outside become a blurr!
So on the first day we flew 5 rounds. It wasn’t our best flying and it took us a little time to get into the flow and calm the nerves down. There were 9 teams in the female category and we found ourselves battling it out with the Swedish and Czech teams for 2nd place. We went into day 2 with just a 3 point cushion from the Swedes. Day 2 was much better and after 9 rounds, we had a comfortable 23 point lead over our Scandinavian rivals. As expected the French team was miles in front and because we flew just before them we had the luxury of watching them fly straight after our round.
We finished the meet comfortably in 2nd place with an average of 24.8 points, just 0.1 points off our personal best on what was classed as a technically slow draw. We were pleased to have won the silver medal, which is what many people were predicting. We were however a little disappointed with our overall score as we did leave a number of points on the table. It's hard to comprehend that despite winning silver at the World Championships, we were still dissatisfied. But then that is the driver to do it all over again!
The next big event on the Indoor Skydiving calendar is the European Champions in Voss, Norway in April and then the World Cup is in Bahrain later in the year. Indoor Skydiving is dramatically growing as a sport with increased participation fuelled by new wind tunnels popping up all over the world. This, coupled with increased media and spectator attention, means there is now even talk of how Indoor Skydiving may become an Olympic sport within the next decade!
Now that is definitely a good enough reason to keep training!