Skydiving begins Asian offensive as it strives to be included in 2024 Olympic programme
First Asiania Indoor Skydiving Championship concludes as governing body switches focus
If swimming is considered such a mainstay at the Olympic Games, then why can’t indoor skydiving be in contention? After all, you would have to compete in the ocean to truly test one’s ability to swim. Yet everyone settled with artificial pools, according to the chair of Asia’s first-ever regional indoor skydiving championship.
“Organisers put water in a pool and athletes went swimming. Indoor skydiving is the same – it uses a glass chamber and you put wind it in for athletes to fly,” said Choi Chang Il, secretary general for the First Asiania Indoor Skydiving Championship – a three-day event that concluded in Chongqing, China, last week.
The inaugural competition signalled the kick-start of the mainland’s aviation sport programme ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and 2028 Games in Los Angeles, both of which have generated murmurs of a potential inclusion of air sport.
Organised by indoor skydiving giants iFLY and the Aero Sports Federation of China and governed by the Asiania Parachuting Federation, professionals from Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Australia competed in a series of individual and team formation events inside 14 metre-high wind chambers going at ferocious speeds of up to 255.5 kilometres per hour.
The edition included an unprecedented number of Asian competitors outside of the familiar Singaporean and Chinese contingent on the international circuit.
Choi was delighted with the “smooth start” and overall standard of skydiving in Chongqing and encouraged all member nations to further promote the fledgling sport to the public.
“We started preparing for the event in 2011 and finally agreed to start it from 2018,” said Choi, who also oversaw the judging panel. “Indoor skydiving is becoming a more well-known sport in Asia. We can strongly say that it’s time to start developing indoor skydiving events here.
“Our next plan is to encourage Asiania to [develop] wind tunnels to make it popular enough to bring it to the Asian Games. They are working on it to be in the Olympic Games in France in 2024 and USA in 2028,” he said, adding that Asiania and its Latin American equivalent are co-operating for a future cross-continental championship.
China showed interest in aviation sports ever since its regular hosting of the World Wingsuit League – the world’s top wingsuit proximity flying and base-jumping competition. The mainland has been setting up a host of wind tunnels and new drop zones for conventional outdoor skydiving over the past five years.
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Indoor skydiving’s dream of one day featuring in the Olympics is still in its early stages but edged one step closer in January after the French Parachute Federation announced it would push to get the sport to the 2024 Paris Games, according to the International Bodyflight Association.
The Association added that iFly Paris is centred in the proposed Olympic Park area and that indoor skydiving is recognised as an air sports discipline within the International Federation of Air Sports and could therefore be an Olympic-recognised sport.
Indoor parachute jumping at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, USA is also of interest, revealed iFly’s rundown of the Asiania event, adding that the competition would be the “beginning of the Chinese wind tunnel movement towards the Olympics.”
Multiple Wind Games and Indoor Skydiving World Cup gold medallist, Kyra Poh of Singapore, was one of the marquee athletes competing in China last week.
“Because it’s so close to the World Cup in Bahrain – the biggest competition this year – it’s been stressful,” said 15-year-old Poh, known as “the world’s fastest flier” after recently retaining her title as Wind Games Freestyle champion.
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“My partner Yixuan and I are also in the midst of exams, then we leave for Bahrain straight after, so we’ve been trying our best to juggle everything.”
Poh and her Team Firefly teammate Choo Yi Xuan have blazed the trail for Asian indoor skydivers over the past two years. Poh, who recently featured in the Singaporean government’s national tourism advertising campaign, revealed that she and her Singaporean cohort were the one of the only main Asian competitors in previous international events.
“I think Singapore has really helped to spread awareness about this sport and I see many people flying not only from Singapore, but in other countries too,” Poh said.
“Because this sport is more popular in Europe and America, I think the increase in wind tunnels in China shows that Asia is trying to aid the development [towards] France 2024. I feel proud that there are more Asian countries taking part since we started competing in 2012,” she added.