Catching up with…SDC Rhythm XP

Visit Us

SDC Rhythm on the US Nationals podium – Image by Ron Shipp

Hey Steve and JaNette, congratulations on winning the US Nationals, has it sunk in yet? What does it mean to you?

JaNette:  Thank you!  Wow, It is all still sinking in.  It is really hard to put it all into words.  First and foremost, I just feel so grateful for the experience, to be able to do what we did last week, with my amazing teammates that I love so much. Winning US Nationals for me, is a dream I’ve been pursuing for over a decade now. It’s crazy to think about everything we went through to get here. Of course, there were setbacks and challenges, but there are also so many happy memories and triumphs along the way too.   I have learned so much and developed such a great relationship with my teammates. Being able to perform at nationals, our best meet average ever and have it end up in a tiebreaker round that we won — I was just so grateful to have that opportunity with my teammates.

How long has SDC Rhythm been going as a team?  And how did it start?

JaNette: Steve and I formed Rhythm with Laurent 13 years ago.   The three of us were training on two different teams the previous season, and we always wanted to do more training, more tunnel, more jumping.  After that season was over it just seemed natural to start a team together. We hired Robery Chromy as a player-coach and picked up Andy Metcalfe on video, and off we went.  Two years later, we quit our jobs, moved to Skydive Chicago and started training full time.

What were the goals of the team?  What are they now?

JaNette: When we started the team in 2007 our goal was to be the best team from the midwest.   Soon after that we asked ourselves, how good CAN we get. Winning the national championships and then a world meet was very quickly a long term goal, even when it seemed very far away.

Steve: The goal is to be the world champion

How many teammates have you had so far?

Steve: I think we’ve had 12 flyers inside, and about 7 videographers

SDC Rhythm, Nationals line-up; Steve Lefkowitz, JaNette Lefkowitz, Andrew Happick, Doug Barron & Elliot Byrd (camera) – Image by D Squared

Can you list your competition achievements?


  • 2019: SDC Rhythm XP – 1st Place USPA Nationals 4 way, 1st Place 16 way, 1st Place 10 way, Overall FS Gold Medal
  • 2019: XP8 – 1st Place USPA Nationals 8 way
  • 2019: XP8 – 1st place World Indoor Championships 8 way challenge 
  • 2019: XP8 – 1st place US Indoor Nationals 8 way 
  • 2019: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd Place US Indoor Nationals 4 way 
  • 2018: SDC Rhythm XP – USPA Nationals 2nd place Open 4way, 1st place 16 way, Overall FS Gold Medal
  • 2018: XP8: 1st Place Open 8 way
  • 2017:SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd Place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2017: SDC Rhythm XP – 3rd Place FS World Cup, Saarlouis, Germany
  • 2016: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2015: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2015: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place Bedford World Challenge
  • 2014: SDC Rhythm XP – 3rd place Dubai International Parachuting Championships
  • 2014: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2013: SDC Rhythm XP – 3rd place 4th Dubai International Parachuting Championships
  • 2013: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2012: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place World Indoor Skydiving Championships, Singapore
  • 2012: SDC Rhythm XP – 2nd place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2011: SDC Rhythm XP – 3rd place 3rd Dubai International Parachuting Championships
  • 2011: SDC Rhythm XP – 4th place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2010: SDC Rhythm XP – 5th place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2009: SDC Rhythm XP – 6th place USPA Nationals Open
  • 2008: CSC Rhythm XP – 1st place USPA Nationals Adavanced
  • 2008: CSC Rhythm XP – 1st place Midwest Skydiving League AAA
  • 2007: CSC Rhythm – 3rd place USPA Nationals Advanced
  • 2007: CSC Rhythm – 1st place Midwest Skydiving League AAA
  • 2006: CSC Rubicon

Plus JaNette won the world meet with the Golden Knights women’s 4-way team in 2016, and was made an honorary Golden Knight as well.

SDC Rhythm at US Nationals 2019 – Image by D Squared

In a way you became a ‘farm team’ for Arizona Airspeed as many of your teammates took a slot on Airspeed, how did you feel about that?

JaNette: Over the past 12 years, we’ve had lots of challenges, and certainly one of the biggest was keeping the team together and progressing while many of our teammates were recruited away.  I have no hard feelings for my teammates that left — they needed to do what is right for them. I think as a team we’ve become stronger and better at defining our own unique values that define us and keep us focused on our team goal together.

Steve: When we have a great teammate we’re sorry for them to go, but ultimately it’s their decision.  Our goal has always to be so strong that no other team is more appealing.

You’ve represented USA at World Cups & indoor meets, how different is it to be the US team at a World Championships?

Steve:  It’s a big deal to be the US team at the World Championships. To me, that’s the highest achievement you can have in the US.

JaNette: Aside from winning a world meet, it’s the next biggest goal.   It’s a really big deal.

This is the first time you beat Airspeed in an outdoor meet – what were the main factors for your success?

JaNette: We have had a lot of time together with this lineup, although it has not all been easy going.   In that time, I think we’ve learned to be good teammates, how to train efficiently and effectively, and how to perform our best in competition.  This season, just coming back from Doug’s injury and the team had a lot of other commitments through the summer as well, we were very much just focused on ourselves. We wanted to get back to the scoring level we were at at the end of 2017. We knew it was in there, and probably more, so this season was just about that. When we got to Paraclete the week before nationals, everything just started to click. It felt great, and we all felt very comfortable and confident with this faster pace. We really didn’t know how it would all go and that was exciting. Then once we were in the meet and it was close, I think our experience training and competing together, and the confidence that comes with everything we’d been through together, served us well.

Steve: I think the main factors are first all the time we’ve spent together.  There’s no substitute for putting in years of training together. And of course it helped us that they lost Ari midway through the season, that can’t be denied.

You tied after 10 rounds on 26.2 average, both teams improving since last year, when Airspeed scored 25.5 and SDC 22.3… how did you add a massive 39 points to your score? 

JaNette:   I compare the score to our 2017 performance at Perris which was a 25.2.  I’m super happy to put 10 points on that score. 

Steve:  Last year, Rob filled in for Doug. He’s awesome, but having Doug come back made a big difference. The previous year we had done 25+ average a couple of times, so we knew we could do that and more, and just needed to put in the work to get back to it.

Airspeed and SDC after a Nationals jump – Image by D Squared

Is this your highest outdoor average?  Did the battle with Airspeed push you to achieve your best performance? 

JaNette: Yes. For sure, having a tight race pushed us. For me personally, knowing that every point counts, kept me hyper-focused on performing my best.

Steve: It was our highest average by a whole point. Having Airspeed there definitely pushed us to be our best.

Were there days when you thought this moment [winning Nationals] would never come? If so, how did you get through those?

JaNette: Absolutely.  It has been a lot of ups and downs, but over time I found my way through it. I think winning takes a lot of things, hard work, skill, and then there’s just an element of luck, being in the right place at the right time. After 2017, winning the indoor nationals, and then coming so close at the US Nationals, in my heart, I knew we COULD win, it was just a matter of WOULD we  And there’s a lot out of my control. So all I can do is keep doing what is in my control. Keep working to improve, and help the team improve and preserve our longevity.

Steve:  I never felt sure that we would win. But rather than focus on whether it would happen, I’ve always been pushed to be the best I can be.  If I feel like I’m growing, then I continue to be motivated.

How did you feel going into round 1? It was a fast draw – maybe not ideal for the first round.

JaNette: As I said earlier, going into the meet, we really had no idea how the competition would go, we were very much focused just on ourselves and putting up our best performance.  I knew we’d do well on that round, so I was just excited to get started.

Steve:  I was confident but also concerned about round 1, especially because of how fast it was.  I worked that dive a lot the night before.

It was a nail-biting neck-and-neck competition – how did you feel going into the jump-off?

JaNette:   For me, I was just struck by the whole experience. Winning nationals was something I’ve dreamt about forever. And here we were, we had just put up our best average ever, by a full point, and earned ourselves a jump off with the 13-year Airspeed dynasty. It really was the stuff of dreams. In the plane and on the jump I just felt so confident and grateful to be there with my team, and my husband.   In the door had that same big meet feel, but once we started, the jump just felt great, and I tracked away happy. Waiting for the scores on the other hand — I was a wreck!

Steve: I decided what was important was to focus on the one jump, and put aside its implications.  When I started to let myself think about what it meant, I would change course and go back into visualizing the execution.  I had a sense that all I could control was doing that one jump as best I could, and then let the results fall from that.

“Waiting for the scores I was a wreck!” JaNette
Image by D Squared

You look smoother than Airspeed, more precise and with a steady rhythm that never faltered or altered, they look like they are moving faster but had more busts and glitches – any comment?

JaNette: I haven’t watched all of their videos yet, but I did feel like our jumps were super together and confident.

Steve:   I think the difference stemmed from our group having more time together, all four of us.

You had massive support, did all the well-wishing help?

JaNette:   I’m kinda floored by it all really. Along the way, we’ve been able to share our passion for 4 way with so many people. When meets haven’t gone my way in the past, its often been watching the success of other teams and skydivers I’ve worked with that has kept me going.  To see so many people excited for us is just a reminder of everything that has kept me going to get to this point.

Steve:  All the well-wishing feels really great.  It always surprises me how much other people care.  It’s very meaningful to me.

Celebrations by Ron Shipp

Tell me about your teammates

JaNette: Wow, I love these guys!  Andrew is so practical and to the point, he keeps us focused.  In the air, he’s super fast. Doug brings a lot of fun and positivity to the team, and I really enjoy our relationship as piece partners.   He cares so much. I’m so proud of him for how much he’s grown these past few years through his injury. Steve is just incredible. I can’t picture a person more devoted and focused on the goal of self-improvement more than Steve. He’s a machine. Justin [Wageman] just joined us this year — he’s got such a methodical approach to learning and improving and he brings a great perspective to the team.

Steve:  you said it.  But seriously, what I like most about our team is how supportive we are of each other (which includes Justin on video full-time, he will be videoing us for the World Cup).

How did Doug’s injury affect the team and how did you all cope?

JaNette:   Honestly, it had a huge impact. It changed everything for us. We rethought our approach to be more long-term focused. Of course, I’d rather it not have happened, but I think through it all, we emerged a stronger and better team.

Steve: Doug’s injury was devastating because as a friend, it’s very difficult to see someone get hurt so badly, have to go through such a long healing process, and be held back from doing what he loves for so long.  However, Doug’s spirit is inspirational, and the quickness with which he recovered was incredible. After the injury, as a team we had to totally rethink our approach to 2018 to keep the team strong and growing for Doug’s return.

SDC Rhythm XP at Nationals – by D Squared

What’s the plan now to get ready for the World Championships?  

JaNette: Same as the last 12 years, train our butts off.

Steve:  Train a lot

Will you still be able to run your tunnel camps and offer coaching?

JaNette:   Yes!

Steve: We’ll still run tunnel camps and offer coaching.  Andrew’s and my time will be more limited because we’re doing 8way as well.

Do you have a coach? Will you be looking for one now, to go to the next level?

Steve: We didn’t have a coach last year, but we’ll be looking to get additional coaching, even if it’s on a visiting basis, this year.

You equaled Hayabusa on 3 rounds, how does that make you feel about the battles with them to come?

Steve: Hayabusa is awesome.  They represent the next level in the sport, and we’re going to do our best to reach that level.

What motivates you to achieve the highest possible level in competition and to work full time in skydiving for so long?

JaNette: As cliché as it sounds, for me it’s about the journey.   I really enjoy working hard and finding success with teammates that are also friends.   And I enjoy sharing my passion with teams and friends that I coach and sharing in their successes too.  

Steve: I am motivated by the reward of seeing myself and my team improve.  As long as that happens, I’m excited to keep going. That goes for competition, but coaching as well.

JaNette, you are only the third woman to win the US 4-way Nationals, why is that?

JaNette: As in many other industries, I think it is still tough for women at the top of the sport. To be completely honest, there have been times I’ve worried too much about those that suggest women can’t do as well as men.   Over time, I’ve learned to ignore those voices and instead lean on the many voices that do believe in me and in equality for our sport. I’m very fortunate to have a ton of support, especially from my husband Steve and my teammates and sponsors.

Rook Nelson, sponsor (Skydive Chicago), joins the celebrations – Image by Ron Shipp

Who are your sponsors?

  • Skydive Chicago
  • Paraclete XP
  • PD
  • Sun Path
  • Cypres
  • L&B
  • TonySuits
  • Skydive Sebastian
  • Kiss / Cookie
  • Para-Concepts

Anything you would like to add?

Steve:  I just posted a bit of an essay on what this nationals means to me on Facebook.  The gist is that I feel tremendous gratitude for all that I get to enjoy from the sport and competition.  That gratitude means every competition experience, whether I win or lose, is rewarding. And that keeps me so motivated in the sport.

Find out more about SDC Rhythm XP at their website, which has loads of really useful 4-way resources.

Visit Us

Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

Visit My Website
View All Posts