Free Event Tidbits

TUESDAY 23 October
By Chris "Kermit" Rimple
Freestylist, Team Nitro

Greetings from the 2001 National Championships. Tim Wagner has graciously accepted my offer to provide tidbits on the "free" events, so I'll be giving you a "view from the trenches" as the competition progresses during the next three days. Feeling a little unfamiliar with the free events? Don't worry, I'll try to make this informative, entertaining, AND educational.

There are three skydiving disciplines that make up the free events: Freestyle, Skysurfing, and Freeflying. Freestyle and Skysurf teams are made up of a performer and a videographer, while Freefly teams are made up of two performers and a videographer. In Freestyle and Skysurfing, the performer demonstrates a variety of movements, poses, and interactions with the videographer; the resulting sequence could be generally described to the non-skydiver as "freefall gymnastics", with a particular emphasis on body form for Freestyle. Freeflying has a far greater emphasis on interaction between the performers and much less on body form.

Unlike Relative Work or other disciplines, the free events are judged not only for execution, but also for artistic value; they are similar to gymnastics and ice skating in the scoring methods and criteria. For each of the discriplines, a full competition is made up of 7 rounds: 2 compulsory and 5 free. During the compulsory rounds, teams perform movements that have been drawn randomly by the judges from a pool in the rules. During the free rounds, teams perform any moves that they choose, often choreographing one or more routines well in advance of the competition.

There is a good field of competitors at the 2001 Nationals in all the free events. Rook Nelson, a well-known freeflyer, is trying his hand at Freestyle with videographer Mike Swanson, who won gold in Freeflying at the 2000 Nationals. Scott Smith, 1995 Freestyle World Champion and long-time Skysurf competitor, has come out of retirement to compete in Skysurfing. Arizona Freeflight and the Flyboyz, both medal winners in Freeflying at the 2000 Nationals, will be attempting to repeat and improve their performances from last year. And Emmanuelle Celicout, 2001 World Air Games silver medallist, is competing in Freestyle as a guest. But due to changes in the eligibility rules, Olav Zipser, a member of the gold medal-winning Freefly team at the 2000 Nationals, is not in attendance.

On a personal note, this will be Team Nitro's last Nationals. Having won gold at the 1999 and 2000 Nationals, we're defending our title one final time. Next year, I hope to be judging the free events, for reasons you'll understand as you read on...

During the competitor's briefing, we learned that there is a significant shortage of judges for the free events. Originally planned for five judges with high/low scores being dropped, only three judges are participating and no scores will be dropped. It seems that many of the people who might be qualified to judge are more interested in competing! Even so, this year's judging panel is quite strong. Jamie Pillasch, Walter Murphy, and Tamara Koyn have been judging free events for many years, both nationally and internationally. They have judged previous Nationals together and know each other well, which will provide consistency and allow the judging to move along at a good pace.

The Nationals organizers have established a policy that teams shouldn't be jumping until their score from the previous round has been posted. As a result, the free events will be spread over a three-day period. Beginning today, Freefly teams will make three jumps, followed by Skysurf teams making two (or possibly three) jumps, and finally Freestyle teams will make two jumps. On Wednesday 24Oct01, the order will be reversed. And on Thursday 25Oct01, the remaining rounds will be completed.

Before competition in the free events had started, the first official protest had been filed. "Perris Fire Marshall", a Men's Skysurfing team made up of skysurfer Scott Smith and videographer Craig O'Brien, had their registration disallowed. Craig had previously registered as the videographer for "Perris Firestarter", a Women's Skysurfing team, and the rules prevent the same competitor from participating on two teams in the same event. Scott and Craig challenged the wording of the rules, but their protest was rejected by the rules jury. When I last checked, Scott was making arrangements for another videographer.


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