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We have just witnessed the closest ever fight in an indoor skydiving competition – unbelievably exciting!!
It was neck and neck all the way for outdoor and indoor champions Hayabusa, and Weembi Lille. The team started in round one with the same score, Weembi took first blood in round two, another equal round then Hayabusa hit hard with 46 points to 40 leaving Weembi four points behind. Ouch! Weembi Lille asked the judges if they could explain the reason for the busts. On reviewing the footage the chief judge couldn't find the busts and changed their score to 43 leaving them just one point behind. Another few exciting rounds and the teams ended the day exactly level exactly the same way as it started, after a lot of drama and adrenline.
On the new day it was a close fight, thrust for thrust until Weembi were one point ahead going into the final round. In a nail-biting finish the judges waited to release the judging of the top four teams in the last round until the UK Indoor Artistics Nationals had completed. Hayabusa and Weembi both prepped the jump-off round. Paul then announced there would be no more jump-offs (AA had just jumped off for the silver) so the guys took their suits off and waited in mounting tension for the scoring.
After an agonising wait, eased by watching the artistic events, the top four teams’ scoring videos were played. In fourth position were RealFly Sion, the French National team, sponsored by Realfly Sion, the only wind tunnel in Switzerland. Damien Gouriou, Laurence Herve, Kévin Mansion and Charles Rommel had a great meet, flying strongly and looking like a well-oiled, rapid machine. They scored 295 points, putting them 8 points behind the Weembi French Girls, in third with 303. The ladies, Sophia Peco, Christine Malnis, Paméla Lissajoux and Clémentine Le Bohec, have massively improved in a short time since the Wind Games, when they averaged 28, and were 23 points behind Realfly.
Who would take gold? Weembi Lille were shown first and moved like lightning, so in tune, amazing to watch, They scored a clean 27 so Hayabusa needed 28 for a jumpoff and 29 to win. Most of us, Hayabusa included, thought the meet was Weembi’s but when the clock finally stopped, the last two points happening in a heartbeat, it read 29. Hayabusa took gold and the third win in a trifecta of recent battles. First was the Wind Games, where Weembi took first and second blood, ended the day exactly level (sound familiar?), but ended up losing by 5 points. Both teams made a record average, Haybusa’s being a new world record indoor average of 32.5. At the next event, the French Indoor Championships, Hayabusa led from round 2 and never looked back, scoring 13 points more than Lille. Now at the World Challenge, they won by a single point, making a new world record average of 33.1 for Andy and David Grauwels, Dennis Praet and Jeroen Nollet.
We’ve never seen an indoor battle like this, the only thing I can compare it to is the epic battle between Airspeed and Hayabusa at the Dubai World Championships 2012, where the Belgians lost by a single point, a bust in the last second of the last jump. Although they ended in silver Weembi Lille – Roy Janssen, Mathieu and Guillaume Bernier, and Julien Degen – should be very proud of themselves. What they achieved, an average of 33 and only one point behind the full-time sponsored multiple world champions is incredible. Weembi Lille can only train for 1 to 2 hours each month and began in October 2016. It shouldn't be possible for them to have achieved this level of performance in such a short time. You can read more about their training methods here. Bring on the next battle!
It was fabulous that SDC Rhythm made the trip over the pond. They ended in fifth place with 286 points. Gavroches Weembi, a team of ex-world champions scored 267, flying hard and fast to take sixth place. Espoir Saumur Weembi, who came seventh with 266 points, are a team that has improved phenomenally in the last year and are closing the gap with the official squad French teams.
I believe there is talk in France now of changing the current system of sending the team from the squad to sending the team that scores the highest at the qualifying event (like the rest of the world), which is undoubtedly Weembi. It seems they would have the only chance of taking gold for France, against Hayabusa. Next best placed are the Weembi French Girls. I am very interested to see who will be chosen to select France at the next Indoor meet, it was to be decided on the results of the French Indoor Championships (won by the Belgian open team Hayabusa, with Weembi the highest placed French team in second) and the Bodyflight World Challenge.
In equal seventh were IFS Moscow, the powerful combination of Egor Gusev, Yury Drozdov, Dmitry Komkovm & Samokhval Dmitry. Ninth with a British ladies indoor record average of 24.9 were Volition, who therefore qualify as the UK team for the World Championships in the World Cup in Bahrain, October 2018, and the European Championships in Voss in April 2018. They can now choose if they wish to compete in the Open or the Female category. They already qualified last year’s Challenge to represent the UK in Female 4-way at the Indoor Championships at Skyventure Canada, this October. Volition has two new team members this year and are still rebuilding the team. Coached by Andy Grauwels, they have only recently stepped back to doing 4-way, after intensive 1-on-1, and 2-on 2. The good news for the UK is that means they can most likely improve a lot in the next six months. This team features multiple World Champions Sparky (Claire Scott) and Liz Matthews, joined by National 8-way Champion Sian Stokes, and UK silver medallist (4Mula), Kate Lindsley. Kate has now left 4Mula to concentrate full time on Volition. This team is an example of how an indoor competition schedule can be worked around motherhood whereas the time constraints of outdoor training at top level make it much more difficult.
In tenth place were the Belgians, ISR Fireflash, supported by Indoor Skydiving Rosendaal. The team is Wesley Claessens and Sven Ibens of Thunder fame, Maya Van Campenhout from The Stunts (Belgian ladies 4-way team) and Glenn Cuylaerts, plucked from a lost property office! They are doing 8-way with Hayabusa, aiming to be the next Belgian 8-way team. ‘Fly-in machine 44’ averaged an unbelievable 29.4 average at the 8-way indoor French Championships with only a few months training. Not too shabby compared to the World Champion Golden Knights score in the recent Paraclete meet, of 31.8. But of course there is no 8-way event at IPC indoor competitions, and it’s a different ball game in the sky!
Eleventh with a 24.1 average were Chimera, a candidate for the ‘most improved’ British 4-way team in recent years, coached by Katie Woods. If Volition elect to enter the Female event then Chimera would qualify to be the UK National team in Open, at Voss and Bahrain meets, 2018. I can't remember who came twelfth – ah, it was Amnesya Fly-In from Italy (239), a long-standing team of great skill, and still improving. NFTO (Not for the Ordinary), the UK Ladies outdoor team were 13th with an average of 23.1, a big jump from 21.5 at the Wind Games just 2 months ago. ACM (14th), arguably the best looking team of the meet, made an impressive 22.9 average, a step up from their 20.1 ‘benchmark’ average at their first meet with a new line-up. Gareth Hicks was called away to work and they pulled in Pete Allum to finish the last rounds of the meet, just when he was saying how he didn't envy those competing and was enjoying the coach role, he was back in the hot slot! Tenanine, the only 4-way team of Mauritania, achieved a record average (22.5) to take fifteenth out of a field of 32. Many teams achieved personal best averages, which might make you think it was a super-fast draw, but there were other teams who scored very similar to recent meets (Gavroches, RealfFly Sion, Jetmax, FlyZone, Les Affranchis) so most likely, these are real improvements not the puff factor of a nice draw. There were no all-random rounds although equally there were few jumps with 3 blocks.
It was almost as exciting in double-A where, where three teams, Alakran, Bahrain and Skydive University Slovakia all held the lead for a while and flew as a pack all the way to the end. Going into round 10 Skydive University were two points ahead of Bahrain who were two points ahead of Alakran. The last round was an all random dive, offering the possibility for any of these teams to finish at the top. Skydive University Slovakia pulled off a great round scoring 35 points and establishing them as the clear winners. Alakran pulled back two points on Bahrain scoring 30 to 28 and meaning they had to jump off for silver. Bahrain just beat Alakran by one point in the jump off to take silver leaving Alakran with the bronze.
It was a good field with 14 teams and a close battle throughout the score board especially between Tahma, Zero and Brainstorming. There were nine different nationalities entered this category. It was excellent to see all these countries making the trip across the water to the world’s original and biggest prize tunnel competition.
The six teams in singe-A came from five different countries. It was pretty clear from the start that Olczyk FlySpot team were a worthy winner, finishing with 236. This team is a family; fathe, mother and daughter and they were in rookie last year. In second place was Italy’s Space Marines with 193 and third was Italian’s, Random, scoring 141 with Marco Arrigo flying as a player coach.
Nine different countries and eleven teams entered Rookie. This category was also really close, with Bahrain and Poland (Omega4way) fighting all the way for gold, swapping the lead back and forward until they went into the last round just one point between them. Bahrain had a blistering last round scoring 23 to Omega’s 18, and clinching the gold convincingly. In third place were the Belgian team of Aeropotams, who held off the challenge from their countrymen from Act One to take the medal.
Under-16s were well represented, in multi-generation family teams and a number of youth teams: in AA were Hurricane Factory Cubs and HF Flies; and in Rookie the Bodyflight-sponsored Recruitz 1 and Recruitz 2, and HF Blue, the youngest team. Junior team members were inspired by the event, saying what an honour it was to be helped by world champion skydivers.
It could barely have been more exciting – apart from the Weembi/Hayabusa jumpoff we were all waiting for! I don’t think we have ever had 3 teams score a 30+ average at an indoor meet… and one of those teams is female – awesome!
In a progressive move Bodyflight sponsored Steve Hamilton as a coach available to all teams for assistance. Bodyflight always unveil something new at the Challenge – this year it was their salt cave, and next year is rumoured to be the Escape Room! The bedrooms have had a refurb and are all now en-suite and very posh! World Challenge TV did not run a continuous live stream this year but instead did a series of professional Facebook Live broadcasts, with commentary and interviews – you can catch up with these here:
Photos soon on the World Challenge Facebook page
Revenge Meet, 14 October, register HERE