CHICAGO — A U.S. team has won the coveted vertical formation skydiving gold medal at the World Parachuting Championships.
SDC Core became world champions Tuesday evening after competing in seven grueling rounds at Skydive Chicago near Ottawa, in central Illinois. The Chicago-based team edged close rivals France and Canada to take the title on home soil.
Most people are familiar with horizontal skydiving, when the jumper is belly-toward-earth during freefall. Vertical skydiving changes the dimension to the vertical plane, meaning the jumper flies head up or head down. SDC Core team member Jason Russell describes it as “a choreographed routine” in the sky.
“It’s a little more surface area and a lot more speed,” Russell said Wednesday.
Russell’s teammates include his wife, Stephanie Strange, as well as Dusty Hanks and Kai Kai Buchholz. The line-up also includes camera flyer Jake Jenson, who shoots video for judges on the ground to inspect to ensure each required formation has been built. Jenson must be as skillful and dynamic a flyer as the rest of the team: If he gets the wrong angle and the formation isn’t clear on video, then that point isn’t counted. This is vital, especially as the top teams were divided by single points in some rounds of the competition this week.
The team has been training hard since Buchholz joined five months ago, notching up around 500 skydives, some wind tunnel training and “countless hours” on the ground debriefing each jump with video. There have been — and still are — injuries to contend with. Hanks could be facing shoulder surgery for a rotator cuff injury.
But despite the physical demands, “we do love what we do,” Russell said. “It is a very positive experience when we are together.”
The world champions were expected to be awarded their gold medals in a ceremony Wednesday night.
SDC Core will also represent the United States next month at the FAI Indoor World Championships in Warsaw, Poland. Shortly after that, the team will compete to keep the U.S. title at the National Skydiving Championships hosted by the United States Parachute Association in Eloy, Arizona.