World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012 United Arab Emirates – Dubai November 29 – December 9, 2012

The 2012 “Mondial” (all events) World Parachuting Championships took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The U.S. Parachute Team was trained and ready, considered by insiders to be the strongest in modern history, with contenders for gold in every discipline and event . . . a promise that turned out to be a medal bonanza for the USA! The organizers registered nearly 1,500 competitors from 58 nations who competed in six disciplines: formation skydiving, vertical formation skydiving, canopy formation, the “classic” events of style & accuracy, canopy piloting and artistic events (freestyle and freefly). There were even demonstration events for speed skydiving (vertical freefall speed) and para-ski (indoor, of course)—all for the first time in the Middle East.

This United States Parachute Team website, launched in 2012, provides visitors with real-time competition news and the latest scores, along with photos and links to the host and official FAI meet website. Family, fans and friends of the team from around the world can follow their activities and results of every international championship event. As the 2013 season unfolds, we’ll post the latest news, including results from the 2013 World Cups in Europe, the World Games in Cali, Columbia, and the 4th Dubai International Parachuting Championships. For now, enjoy this report of the 2012 World Skydiving Championships.

Best of the Best—The FAI World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012

The 2012 FAI World Parachuting Championships Mondial (means “worldwide” in French) included the bi-annual world championships of each competitive skydiving discipline at one venue. 1,280 competitors representing 57 nations performed more than 10,000 skydives, making this the largest competition skydiving event in history. Situated on the idyllic Persian Gulf, Skydive Dubai hosted this world-class event in spectacular fashion.

Artistic Events

Freefly

USA 2 (SoCal Converge) earned the silver medal after waging a dramatic battle for first with France 2 (Kristal). Throughout the event, each round saw position changes as the teams gained or lost fractions of a point. In the final round, it would have been difficult but possible for defending World Champion Converge to overtake France 2, but the teams ended up tying. This gave Converge a final score of 64.5 to Kristal’s 64.7. Narrowly behind, France 1 took home the bronze with 63.6 points. With 59.4 points, USA 1 (NorCal Alliance) took seventh place.

Freestyle

In what was undoubtedly one of the best showings of freestyle competitors at a world championships, U.S. teams Dragons (USA 1) and Animare DeLand (USA 2) held their own against fiercely elegant competition. Unable to break into the podium position, Dragons finished fourth, 7.3 points behind the top position. Animare, taking sixth, made an impressive showing at its first world competition. They’re determined to return, so this will be a team to watch in the future.

Canopy Formation

2-Way Sequential

USA 1 (Clean Air) earned the silver in 2-way, raising its point average per round from 19.3 in 2010 to 24.4 this year. Clean Air also set a new U.S. record in round three with 27 points, which it bested in round six with 28 and tied in round seven. “The other top three 2-way teams have all been jumping together for four-plus years, and for us to take silver in our first world competition and setting two new U.S. records, we thought we were skydiving to our maximum potential,” said team member Brian Pangburn. The team finished with 171 points, 18 points behind gold medalist France.

USA 2 (Stuck in Lodi) placed eighth out of 23 teams. Focused training resulted in USA 2’s average score improving 2.5 points over its 2011 USPA Nationals performance.

4-Way Sequential

Taking the silver, Clean Air averaged an impressive 11.9 points per round, besting all of its previous competition scores. The team also set a world record for 4-way sequential with a score of 13 in round two. Then, in round six, the team members thought they had set another world record of 14, only to be denied by the judges for failure to show the point. (International Parachuting Commission rules do not allow judges to use multiple slow-motion or freeze-frame views as USPA rules do.) This one point also cost Clean Air the gold medal, since the team was tied with France until the eighth and final round, when the French outscored the U.S. by one point.

4-Way Rotations

With just under an 18-point average (up from a 14-point average at the previous year’s USPA Nationals), team USA (Elsinore Too Wrapped Up) made a lasting impression at its first world meet, taking fourth place. Its performance had the top two rotations teams, France and Russia, inquiring about the newcomers.

At the end of the competition, the canopy formation teams gathered to make an international 25-way formation with participants from 12 countries. The audience enjoyed the formation so much that the organizers asked the team to build a second formation with 26 members the following day, setting a new UAE record for largest canopy formation.

Canopy Piloting

The U.S. team took home seven out of 12 medals in canopy piloting and won gold in each event. Besting a field of 128 competitors from around the world, Curt Bartholomew took home his first World Champion title, earning three gold medals (accuracy, speed and overall) and one bronze medal (distance). Preparing to take the stage, he described the experience as nothing less than “surreal.” Former World Champion Nicholas Batsch joined his teammate on the podium, earning the silver overall medal and the gold in distance (as well as setting a world-record distance run of 154.09 meters). Representing Spain, Pablo Hernandez earned the bronze medal overall. Adding to the medal count of the U.S. Team, Thomas Dellibac earned the silver in speed.

Formation Skydiving

4-Way Open

Newly formed in 2011, team USA (Arizona Airspeed) started strong, battling Belgium (Hayabusa) very closely. After tying round seven and a two-point advance from Belgium in round eight, the two teams sat neck-and-neck going into the final two rounds. Both teams earned 40 points in round nine, remaining tied going into round 10. Disbelief overcame the crowd as the initial score (broadcast to the observers on a large monitor) showed both teams scoring 26—another tie. However, after multiple reviews by the judges, they determined that Hayabusa in fact earned only 25 points, one fewer than Airspeed. With a 279-278 final score after 10 rounds, the U.S. took home the gold medal and the title World Champion, reclaiming the Ottley Sword for 4-way that France (which took the bronze this year) possessed after its win over the U.S. in 2010.

Women’s 4-Way

Just weeks after being the first all-female team to stand on the podium at the USPA Nationals, the U.S. women’s team (Golden Knights GKF4) gunned for a top spot in Dubai, as well. Leading France for most of the competition, the U.S. women took a turn for the worse, and by round eight they began struggling to keep up. With a solid score by France in round nine, USA was destined for a silver-medal finish. Finishing with an impressive 20.1-point average, USA fell behind France 207 to 201 for the silver. Norway took bronze with 178 points.

8-Way

After losing the Ottley Sword for 8-way to France in 2006 and being unable to regain it in following years, the U.S. needed a team that could fight hard and wasn’t willing to give up a single point. The Golden Knights GK8 was that team. Starting off strong, GK8 sped ahead and had a seven-point lead by round four. Not able to make any ground, France tied GK8 in rounds seven through 10. GK8 was able to maintain its lead, defeating France 229 to 225 and reclaiming the Ottley Sword for the U.S. Even more remarkable, the members of the Golden Knights were able to break the team’s 15-year curse; the Knights last possessed the Ottley Sword in 1997.

Vertical Formation Skydiving

With 168 points, SDC Standard XP brought home the bronze medal in VFS for the U.S. Team. Instead of the close battle that the teams expected, the VFS point spread only grew as the competition went on. France had a slow start but took control of the lead by round three and never looked back. The UAE’s SD Nexus was unable to catch up but secured a strong second-place finish. With an unusually large point gap between the top teams, France finished with an eight-point lead over UAE, 185 to 177.

Style and Accuracy

Accuracy competitors faced unpredictable conditions from the beginning of the meet, changing DZ locations from round to round and dealing with shifting winds. The U.S. men’s accuracy team started strong—in the top eight through round five—but ended up in the middle of the pack against the top European teams, which are mostly government sponsored and fully funded.

For the U.S. competitors, Elisa Tennyson, with a fourth-place finish in style, was the closest to a top-10-overall spot, just short of the mark in 11th place. U.S. National Champion James Hayhurst placed a commendable 11th in men’s style. Most notable of the style performances was that of Philippe Valois of France. Hayhurst described the performance as “one of the most beautiful, fluid and precise executions of style ever seen.” Valois won by three seconds and was the only competitor to have sub-six-second performances, which he achieved on three jumps.

Overall, the U.S. Team put in an outstanding performance, medaling 14 times with six gold, six silver and two bronze medals. This makes the United States the medal leader (most top-three finishes over all the events) followed closely by France with 13 medals, eight gold, three silver and two bronze. Medals aside, no one can contest that Skydive Dubai pulled off the grandest skydiving competition in history, setting a standard for size, scope and over-the-top hospitality that another drop zone is unlikely to soon exceed.