Frequent Flyers Compete in First Ever World Cup

By Adam Beard, Melinda Billingsley, Madison Hamilton, Omar Longoria and Landon Pederson

Stepping though the arched glass door, your sense of gravity is immediately lost. Your body shoots up as four 1600 horsepower fans glide you through the giant wind tunnel. Legs and arms become heavy props that must consciously be stabilized throughout your flight.

No, you did not just drink the fizzy lifting drink in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – this is the indoor skydiving experience.

For the first time in history, this sensation has been combined with one of the biggest international sporting events to create the World Cup of Indoor Skydiving.

In January the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and International Parachuting Commission voted iFly Austin as the arena to host the international competition. Although there are more than 28 indoor skydiving facilities worldwide, the Austin wind tunnel is regarded as one of the most advanced establishments.

On Nov. 14 skydiving teams from Canada, Czech Republic, Poland, Monaco, France, Mexico, Sweden, Russia and the United States gathered at iFly Austin for the competition.

“It’s nice to have international competition to judge and see where you stand on a world scale,” said Mike Silva, a Team USA member.

Judges also flew in from all over the world to crown a winner of the three-day competition.

Although judging a sport through a glass tunnel is seemingly difficult, Ron Miasnikov, chief judge from Israel, explains that indoor skydiving is much easier to judge than outdoor, which is solely based on video footage from the air.

“It’s so friendly for the people who can just sit outside the tunnel and watch and know what is going on,” said Sergio O’Farrill, a member from Team Mexico. “Much more friendly than doing it from the sky where you don’t know what’s going on during a jump.”

Formation Skydiving (open and female), Vertical Formation Skydiving, Freefly and Freestyle are the five events that indoor flyers compete in.

“The judges base their score on creativity, difficulty and execution,” said Chris Dixon, an iFLY Austin instructor and Team USA competitor.

While formation relies on team synchronization, much like figure skating, the free fly events are more individual and artistic. Although each event has distinct movements and goals, freestyle is the most popular among flyers and spectators alike. During the event, the best flyers in the world show off their style and skill by flipping and twirling at high speeds around the tunnel.

“Hopefully we get more teams involved and people will be interested in coming to this type of competition,” O’Farrill said.

However, indoor skydiving isn’t just for professionals. Silva has instructed flyers from 2 to 98-years-old.

“There’s nothing as cool as feeling what it’s like to fly,” Silva said.

To view photos from the World Cup of Indoor Skydiving, follow this link:

To view the results of the World Cup of Indoor Skydiving, follow this link:

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