With three days to go until The World Games 2022 conclude on Sunday, 17 July, I start with my analysis of each of the 34 sports featured in Birmingham, USA. Air sports, specifically the parachuting/skydiving events, were my foremost field of expertise until 20 years ago, that is why I look at Canopy Piloting first.
What is left of the formerly five diverse parachuting/skydiving events featuring in the World Games editions 1997 (Lahti, FIN) through 2009 (Kaohsiung, TPE) is Canopy Piloting, supposedly the best that the Skydiving Commission (ISC) of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) can put forward to showcase the essence of what is currently under its governance. I miss the breadth portrayed in the past with events ranging from Accuracy Landing to Freeflying, yes, but I am aware of the circumstances and politics that have brought about this development in the lead-up to 2013 Cali.
It was extremely difficult to follow the Canopy Piloting event from afar, through either TV or online coverage, as there was simply not enough of it. I am sure that the numerous spectators on site were well informed - by Regan Tetlow, the "voice of air sports" - about the parachuting discipline (in my nomenclature) and its Accuracy, Distance, Speed and Freestyle rounds. But I am also convinced that the messages going out through international TV - as short news cuts in daily highlights - were not "digestible" enough for the general public. That is often the case in highly technical sports.
Probably one of the best ways to keep up with what happened at the Barber Motorsports Park was through the social media posts of some of the participants. In that context I would like to single out the coach of the French national team, Philippe Schorno. His expertise and insights provided me with a whole new understanding of the rules and the intricacies of an event producing imagery similar that what I remember from my worst nightmares as drop zone operator 30 years ago.
Cédric VEIGA RIOS, FRA, won the gold, congratulations! Something that seems all more meritorious because he did not train any Freestyle at all. Could it be that it is considered too risky by the French Parachute Federation?
I also learned that the existing rules had to be amended to allow for the particular layout of the field of play and the conditions at the venue in Birmingham. Is that really the way ISC and FAI want to go in their mutual effort to maintain a perfect safety record at the highest-profile multi-sport games they are involved in?
Let me be clear: I am not against Canopy Piloting. It is a dynamic event that produces drama and atmosphere at the venue. But I would seriously consider adding other parachuting/skydiving events for a more well-rounded portrayal of the air sport. While I am perfectly aware that parachuting/skydiving will never get a contingent of athletes as it did in the early years, cutting back in one event to allow for a second to be featured should certainly be an option.
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