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At just 17, Fatima Al Khalifa is representing her country, Bahrain, at the 3rd FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving, hosted at Gravity, 25-28 October. She talks about what competitive sport at an early age has taught her – “You will fail many times before you succeed”.
How did you start flying, Fatima?
The first time I ever flew was with my best friends, we decided to go on a girls’ trip for new year and I got hooked and started to go and fly weekly. Gravity then noticed my dedication and offered me a sponsorship. I was beyond thrilled for what was to come.
What interested you in indoor skydiving?
I had heard of indoor skydiving before but I didn't know much about it or how much it evolved as a sport. I saw the instructor performing his demo routine for the first time and it blew my mind! I did not know it was possible to do that many tricks inside the tunnel!
What excited you about freestyle?
I love the freedom of creativity I have in freestyle. I’ve always loved watching dance routines, gymnastics or figure skating – it inspires me to try it out in the tunnel!
What coaches have you had, and what has each one taught you?
To me every single instructor at Gravity has taught me something, whether as little as a simple turn to my first layout. But in the past year, as Gravity gave me the opportunity to be coached by Ben Roane, my skills in flying exceeded exponentially. With his advice I’m very thankful to have him as my coach – and my Candy Crush buddy! ;-)
What was your first international competition?
My first international competition was Flight Fighters at Gravity in Bahrain
How did it go?
I placed last which was expected since it was my first time competing against people who I usually watch on my laptop. I made so many new friends and they were kind enough to give me advice, since I was a ‘new girl’. After that competition I think my flying improved as a whole.
_I learned to never compare myself to others and to look at my progress_
What did you learn at Flight Fighters?
I learned to never compare myself to others and to look at my progress. I learned to keep pushing smarter and harder for my next competition because I want to make my coach and my family proud.
What other competitions have you done?
Gravity hosted 2 competitions prior to Flight Fighters ,which I competed in and did very well. In mini Flight Fighters 2016 I placed second in freestyle and third in 2-way. At the 1st Arab Championship & GCC Cup of Indoor Skydiving I placed second in freestyle and VFS. I also competed at the Wind Games 2018.
How do you feel about representing Bahrain at the World Cup of Indoor Skydiving (WCIS) this October?
I'm excited and honored because I'm the first Bahraini freestylist to ever compete at this level of competition. There is pressure but that doesn't bother me; in fact it is more motivating so I perform better.
What does WCIS mean to you?
It’s a step forward in my level of difficulty maybe even the highest level of competition so far.
What is your training plan to prepare for the competition?
Training in the tunnel at Gravity as much as I possibly can. I am also improving my fitness and flexibility when I am not flying.
What are you most looking forward to about WCIS?
Seeing my friends again. I’ve missed them and I’m curious to see how much better flyers they have become from the last time I saw them.
How many hours in the tunnel do you have now?
I lost track a long time ago!
What’s been your best indoor skydiving moment?
Until recently I’ve been doing drills in the tunnel but now I fly in a more dynamic way. Whenever I’m in the tunnel I’m always moving. I’ve become much smoother flying in the tunnel – in other words I stopped flopping around.
Who is your biggest support?
My mother is at the top of the list. She is always there for me and encourages me to do my best. She always recommends ways I can improve my skills and manage my time. Second to my mother is the team at Gravity Indoor Skydiving. Without the opportunities they have given me I would be nowhere. A big thank you to Gravity for their massive support!
Whom do you admire, who are your mentors and inspiration, and why?
My coach Ben [Roane] is my mentor. He’s patient and always very encouraging even when I don’t pick up a new trick quickly, he is always there to help. I’m inspired by my friends who fly. They give me advice, even though we are competitors, they are always willing to help me get better.
What advice do you have for newcomers to freestyle?
Be yourself, keep flying even when you have a rough day. You will fail many times before you succeed.
Has competition helped you develop as a person, if so, how?
YES! It introduced me to professional sport and to friends who all share the same interest. After every competition I feel like I have evolved as an indoor skydiver.
Are there many freestylists from Bahrain?
Unfortunately, no, I am the only Bahraini Freestyle Indoor Skydiving athlete but I hope to inspire many more people to join this growing sport.
Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?
“Don’t waste a minute not being happy. If one window closes, run to the next window — or break down a door.” – Brooke Shields
Thanks for talking to us Fatima, we wish you every success at the World Cup and beyond!