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16 Aug, 2010 10:23

Russian skydivers explore world of swooping

Those who dive from the skies for a living have come together in the Moscow Region. The globe's top professional skydivers have taken part in the Swooping World Championships.

Is it possible to invent something new in parachuting to make it even more exciting and dangerous? The answer is “Yes.” Canopy piloting, or swooping, is a rather new genre in the world of skydiving. However, this is a fast growing discipline of parachuting.

Canopy piloting entails a pilot turning his parachute into a rotation dive, dramatically increasing its speed.

The skydivers then glide downward, like birds of prey attacking their victims. As they fly less than a meter off the ground, and at speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour!

“This is one of the most dangerous forms of parachuting,” says swooper Aleksandr Golovkin.

”The speed is very high and every mistake in piloting can result in a serious injury – that's why only very experienced skydivers take part in such competitions. And the safety requirements increase every year, so a competitor can be disqualified for performing an aggressive, dangerous trick.”

There are always lots of spectators at these events as the action happens not high up in the sky, but right in front of them – more precisely above an artificial pond.

All the tricks are of extreme difficulty, and are performed over the water to make it safer.

The world championship in canopy piloting takes account of three criteria: accuracy, speed and distance.

This year's competition had its challenges, as the weather conditions were poor due to smoke from the fires in Russia, and some flights were cancelled.

However, that did not stop the biggest star of swooping, Jason Moledzki, becoming the overall champion.

Russian skydivers are always among the hot favorites, but not in swooping. However, Aleksandr Golovkin has made history, becoming the first-ever Russian to claim a medal in canopy piloting.

“First of all, this discipline is new in parachuting. It started in the US, and almost all top swoopers are from North America – and they have lots of facilities to help them progress. For the last few years, we've been in contact with swoopers from all around the world, and we can all see improvements, and the level of our performance is getting better,” explained Golovkin.

Once the championships were over, the swoopers were just having fun in the freestyle discipline, showing off their piloting skills to entertain the crowd. Some of their runs ended up in the pond, but these seemed to amaze the spectators even more than the jaw-dropping tricks.

As it gains popularity with both competitors and spectators alike, swooping has the chance of becoming a well known discipline in the world of extreme sports.