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13 Jun, 2010 08:06

Strong winds take parachute competition to the extreme

RT guides you through the ups and downs of a major parachute competition that was held in the skies of the Moscow Region.

Skydivers aim to hit the target, which is a 6 centimeter in diameter circle. “Accuracy landing” is one of the oldest skydiving disciplines. The closer to the center the athlete lands the more points he gets.

The best parachutists from across Russia gathered in the Moscow region to take part. Hundreds were whittled down in two qualifying rounds, and only ten got through to the final.

That's why the jumpers simply call it “the Grand Prix of Russia”.

It's already tradition to see parachutes in the sky just north of the capital at the beginning of the summer as the Moscow Region town of Zelenograd hosted the competition for the ninth time.

What makes this drop different is that instead of aiming for an airfield, jumpers have to dodge buildings.

“This competition is extraordinary not only because it is held in the city, but also the weather conditions are not taken into consideration. An athlete doesn't get a second chance if the wind is too strong. So it's a matter of luck too. Sometimes world champions can't get even close to a target position. That's why this competition is so exciting. And parachutists get invaluable experience that will help them during the season,” Mark Potapov, parachute coach, said.

It's undoubtedly very difficult and only experienced skydivers can compete. But there's no limit on spectators, and hundreds witness the best parachutists navigating the concrete jungle before hitting the central spot.

“Officials and lots of people pay attention to this competition. That's a rare opportunity to see parachutists in the city. Many children have come today here and that's very useful, they will see courageous people and they may choose parachuting as their way of life,” Potapov added.

While skydivers prepared for their next jumps, a helicopter pilot showed his aeronautical acrobatic skills, with tricks usually reserved for world championships.

But the weather changed for the worse, and heavy winds prevented competitors from carrying out their final jump. For organizers, the risk was a bit too much, so the winner was decided on the semi-final.

“The weather conditions are very very difficult, I would say that the tournament was on the edge of cancellation. As you all saw there are lots of good parachutists and all of us were in similar conditions and I was lucky to win,” winner Andrey Vorotilov said.

The strong winds may have disappointed parachutists, who were denied their final, but the crowds were happy enough and are sure to be back for more next year on the tenth anniversary of the so-called Grand Prix of Russia.