With the conclusion of the FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving 2016 we have proved a few things, re-affirmed some others and learned a couple more. The standard of flying on display and the speed at which teams of humans fling themselves around the tube has been of an eye-bulging, jaw-dropping standard throughout. Dynamic teams are separated by the kind of times that require lasers to accurately judge and the 4-Way scores can be upwards of forty points. Juniors in every category across the competition demonstrate that they are skilled and able to step up and battle the grown-ups whenever they choose that they are ready.
The Dynamic 2-Way competition kicked of with everyone fighting for where they would be seeded into the knockout stage. The eight fastest teams got a buy through the early battles with the exception of the 2015 Suisse 1. Defending world champions Filip Crnjakovic and Fabian Ramseyer made a small early error which snowballed into them performing a whole speed round the wrong way - and subsequently had to work against some strong mid-table opponents to make the finals. Tie-break speed rounds separated the positions at the top - with the Polish Flyspot locals the Vipers taking the gold after sub-one second wins over the French team from Windoor. Special mention should be made for crowd favourites iFly Aspire (Kayleigh and Noah Wittenberg - formerly of Mini Maktoum) and Firefly Singapore (one of which - Kyra Poh - won gold in the Junior Freestyle) as both teams are now competition veterans despite being children - who place among the highest level and are certainly capable of victory.
The battle raged in the 4-Way Open between Belgium’s Hyabusa and the French team representing the Weembi tunnel (counting a former Hyabusa member among their number) as the two traded rounds until the later part of the competition where the Belgian’s took it. After a slow start the French ladies began to put up scores in the 4-Way Female that would see them place highly in the open category - leaving the two British teams Volition and NFTO to weigh each other up for the remaining positions on the podium. A very healthy turnout of 8 teams for 4-Way Junior saw the Canadians win a gold, with France occupying 2nd and 3rd and proposing that the next crop of French flyers might represent as strongly in skydiving competitions as the current generation.
VFS was all about the imperious performance of Mondial champions SDC Core - who intend to continue for for another few trips around the calendar and don’t show any signs of being beaten just yet. However, the young Golden Knights team are looking promising after their battle for Silver with the Russians and have vowed to go hard into next season. If they can bring the same pedigree to their new vertical team that the Golden Knights have to their FS interests things might get very interesting.
The last few competitions have seen indoor Solo Freestyle settle into a legitimate position in the proceedings (and gather a huge number of views with some viral videos) and things are only getting more interesting. The standard of this gathering was high enough that a few mere tenths of points arranged the rankings. Interested competitors now seem to understand that cobbling together your best tunnel moves into a loose sequence is not enough to play at the top - that you have to present all the details properly. While not a competition in which music was a part of the rules, many believe it was successfully demonstrated that a well choreographed routine is only added to by a soundtrack - although it remains to be seen exactly how far this element of the format can be taken as the balance between theatre and the parameters actually written down caused some conflict between the judges scores. Leonid Volkov came from Russia with seven separate routines each accompanied by its own piece of music - yet went home with a Silver medal. There is certainly something to be said for that kind of effort and variety but the ruleset does not specify any criteria for rewarding it. He was beaten but one tenth of a point by Finland’s Inka Titto who performed an intricate, technical free round built from the kind of moves the rest of us can only dream of. Some scuttlebutt about the nature of the competition - that modern tunnel skills are somewhat overlooked in favour of classical freestyle - can be analysed in the battle for third place. Mad Raven Martin Dedek of the Czech Republic beat young Polish local Maja Kuczyńska to the bronze medal by the same single tenth that decided the top two with a fast, powerful dynamic routine that included enough creative elements and concessions to presentation to secure the win over Maja’s prettier, more classical set.
This has been the first competition in which the entries in the Dynamic flying category has outnumbered those in the 4-Way open. After some dismissive thinking and comment over the elitist nature of high-end tunnel flying over recent times - that it is solely the province of tunnel instructors and professional coaches - the amount of non-pro and aspiring teams is growing all the time. This reflects the advances we have been making in teaching technique and the accessibility of our sport asa whole. Despite tweaks from one competition to the next - the rules and competition format work with some efficiency, and the rate at which tunnel facilities are sprouting up out of the earth like mushrooms with no signs of slowing down means these world gatherings look set to carry on and continue to grow.