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Copenhagen, Denmark, the site of the Swoop Challenge, is a city filled with beautiful waterways, ships, delicious food and incredible history. The view from above is truly amazing and one I will not soon forget.
Swoop Challenge is a concept developed in 2013 by Michael Kattrup Lassen and George Blythe whom were both officers in the Danish army. This concept gave swoop competitors the ability to compete in an environment that would be more visible and spectacular for the public! In 2014 they ran a test event into the same lake as the competition this year; this event proved swoop challenge could be successful. And so the preparations for this year’s event began….
Prior to this event in August of 2014 Brian Martin Rasmussen joined the Team and headed up the marketing for the event. Roger Mulckey, a professional swooper from Australia, participated in the demo jump and in October decided to dedicate his event-coordinating skills to make help Swoop Challenge happen. Roger runs the Funny Farm event out in Australia, that has proven to be one of the most successful invitational boogies out there. Jens Toftbjerg joined the team shortly thereafter in January, making the Swoop Challenge staff a full powerhouse; success was inevitable.
On June 4th 2015,19 of the best freestyle competitors from around the world flew into Copenhagen to take part in the first professional freestyle competition ever to be held in a major city. This included 19 International Athletes representing 11 different countries. The competition would begin at Dropzone Denmark with 3 days of intense training before a 2-round qualifier for the main event. Only 16 would make the cut and go on to Copenhagen.
Competitors received a warm welcome from Dropzone Denmark which is located in Herning, a city 3 1/2 hours outside of Copenhagen. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating and competitors only got a handful of jumps in over the first few days of training. Despite the weather, there was an amazing vibe at the drop zone and everyone was super excited to be there. That energy carried through and the night before qualifying we made a demo jump into the beach at Fuglsang Lake located in Herning. It was a ton of fun for the athletes and the crowds loved it!
Wednesday morning began qualifying. It was into a strong headwind and proved difficult and challenging for everyone fighting for the top 16 slots. After a training jump and 2 qualifying rounds the athletes continuing on to Copenhagen had been selected. The amount of talent and difficulty in freestyle moves was incredible. The people in Copenhagen were in for a great show! After round one I was sitting 12th overall. On the second round I had to stab out and abort my signature move, a Lazygirl, I was pushing too hard and took it low and in the corner. Unfortunately that took me out of the competition. My [Alter Ego] teammates Curt Bartholomew and Nicholas Batsch would make the cut and go into the competition, qualifying in the top two slots! However, I along with the other athletes that did not make the cut, would still participate in the Swoop Night Lights; a spectacular air show in the Copenhagen Harbor on Thursday night.
Thursday morning competitors were transported back to Copenhagen to the Naval Academy where we would be staying. After a quick briefing on the helicopters and a view of the demo site we headed back to prepare for the evening’s events…
The highlight of my trip was the demo in the harbor. After a disappointing qualifying for me, I wanted to go up, have some fun and rock some freestyle. Exiting the helicopter over Copenhagen is one of the most incredible moments in my life – aside from marrying the most amazing guy in the world ;) The view was breathtaking! We swooped right over top of the royal ship that was parked in the harbor. As I approached the water I realized I was perfectly set up to nail my Lazygirl and land on the raft. As I popped up and landed in the center I heard the crowds go wild. What a surreal moment for me. When my husband Curt Bartholomew landed he greeted me with the biggest smile ever and later posted the following quote on Facebook “We did a demo jump into the harbor in downtown Copenhagen last night before the comp. My badass wife Jeannie Bartholomew KILLED it! She had the loudest crowd cheers out of everyone that jumped, after doing a Lazygirl and then nailed the landing right on the center of the raft. Super proud of her, that was not an easy jump and she rocked it. Love you baby!” I have never been so happy!!
Half of the athletes landed on the raft that night and half in the water. The emergency boats were ready and picked everyone up within seconds of their landings. Afterwards, we celebrated then headed back to get some sleep. The top 16 had a big day ahead of them!
The morning of the competition the weather was beautiful! A warm and sunny day, the first since we had arrived. The winds however, proved to be inconsistent switching from a tailwind to a headwind. This happened in between competitors’ jumps which caused some to miss the landing platform; a 6 meter wide and 25 meter long raft.
The competition consisted of one practice round followed by 2 rounds of competition. 70,000 people surrounded the lake, watching as the athletes either nailed their moves and landed on the platform or in the water. It was exciting and fun to watch. I have never witnessed such loud cheering at a skydiving event anywhere. The announcers Regan Tetlow and Peter 'Irish' Sutton did a great job commentating and explaining to the crowds what was happening and what the judges were looking for.
The whole competition was broadcasted on live television, showcasing the athletes like the true professionals they are. This is a first in skydiving history and hopefully won’t be the last. Pablo Hernandez from the PD Factory Team was flying outside video. He had a rig set up on his helmet where his go pro was broadcasting to live television. On the last round of competition he followed Curt Bartholomew in as he pulled off his signature move, a boomerang switchblade cowboy, and landed in the center of the raft. His first move he threw down a new combination (that he actually thought up for me) a lazy boy switchblade cowboy that has not been done in competition before this event. Both scored fairly high and put him in 5th overall.
Some of swooping’s favorite freestyle pilots threw down some impressive moves! Gage Galle from the USA attempted the first ever barrel roll in competition … he ended up missing the raft and landing in the water and the crowd went wild!
Noah Bahnson brought the heat with a miracle man switchblade on his first round and a boomerang miracle man on the second round, securing his first place overall finish along with $7,500.
Cornelia Mihai invented a new move called the “Hat trick”, where she used a magnetic hat to swoop in and took it off as she came across the water.
Nick Batsch pulled off a boomerang superman and boomerang blindman pulling him up to 2nd overall with less then a point away from 1st. He also took home a check for $5,000!
David ‘Junior’ Ludvik brought home 3rd with his blindman switchblade cowboy and an award of $2,500.
In my opinion, everyone went home winning with the memory of an extraordinary experience.
Top-6 - the total number of points attainable were 100 per round (200 total after 2 rounds)
1: Noah Bahnson, USA - 140,80 points (60,60 and 80,20)
2: Nick Batsch, USA - 140,01 points (58,32 and 81,69)
3: David Junior Ludvik, USA - 133,49 points (58,75 and 74,74)
4: Patrick Kaye, USA - 126,28 points (57,00 and 69,28)
5: Curt Bartholomew, USA - 123,53 points (57,68 and 65,85)
6: Christian Webber, Denmark - 112,32 points (63,76 and 48,56)
7: Cornelia Mihai, Romania
8: Billy Sharman, South Africa
9: Gage Galle, USA
10: Petter Mazzetta, Sweden
11: Abdulbari Qubaisi, UAE
12: Martin Reynolds, England
13: Micah Couch, USA
14: Chris Stewart, New Zealand
15: Leigh ‘Macca’ McCormack, Australia
16: Kristian Moxnes, Norway
So what’s next for Swoop Challenge? Brian Martin Rasmussen stated “The idea of Swoop Challenge and the motto 'Swoop to the People' was only formed in 2013, and after a trial event last year, the big test of the setup was yesterday's competition. The next step is taking the concept to other major, spectacular cities around the world”
George Blythe, co-founder of Swoop Challenge, said “What a fantastic day. Over 70,000 spectators in Copenhagen had a giant party, and the crowd created a unique atmosphere around the lake. We have been working extremely hard to build this event over the past two years, and it all became a little more complicated due to the weather forecasts, that made us reschedule on short notice, but despite that, Swoop Challenge was a great success and we are thrilled and proud. 70,000 people chose to stop by the lake today, and this makes it clear to us that it is possible to unite the beauty in extreme sports and the heart of a historical, cultural metropolitan. After today's success we are dedicated to carry Swoop Challenge across the borders and create a world tour, but it is only attainable if others are willing to support us. Our athletes, whom are the among the best swoopers in the world, have all said, that it was amazing to jump in Copenhagen.”
“Swoop Challenge was organized with great success. It opened our eyes and gave us world class parachuters in the skies above Herning and Copenhagen. With this great event, Swoop Challenge has achieved to take event planning the to the next level, and showed us a new way to use spectacular arenas for sporting events. The international athletes tells us, that they have never experienced a more beautiful place to skydive than Copenhagen, and it proves that the concept of Swoop Challenge is on the right track,” says Lars Lundov, CEO of Sport Event Denmark, the national sporting event organization that works to attract major international sporting events to Denmark and which supports Swoop Challenge financially.
We [the athletes] all hope this is just the beginning of Swoop Challenge freestyle competitions worldwide! We train the same 3 events year round and freestyle is something fun and different that brings a dynamic event to the eyes of the public.
Watch the 3 best swoop videos here