Golden Knights men win Gold Medal, women Silver Medal
The U.S. Army Golden Knights Formation Flying 8-Way Team won the Gold Medal, and the All-Female Golden Knights 4-Way Team brought home the Silver Medal, at the 2012 World Parachuting Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The 8-way competition team brought home the gold in the 8-way Open Formation Skydiving with a winning score of 229 points.
The Knights conquered France, who came in second with a score of 225, and Russia took third with 192.
The United Arab Emirates hosted the 2012 World Parachuting Championships for the first time in Dubai, the sports capital of the Middle East, which lasted from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.
The Golden Knights 8-Way Team – representing the Army’s only Department of Defense Parachute Demonstration Team – was led by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Krause, team leader.
Krause put together a world-class team consisting of veteran parachutists: Sgt. 1st Class Sean Sweeney, Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Isenbarger, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Davidson, Sgt. 1st Class Justin Blewitt, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Coleman, Sgt. 1st Class Michael LaRoche, Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Miller, and Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Starr, along with videographer and cameraman Sgt. Jesse Stahler.
Krause embarked on an incredible journey several years ago, by bringing "young blood" into the reign of established parachuting royalty.
In the beginning, Krause brought on new, young teammates to form the 8-way team.
He then worked to produce another team of champions to represent the Army.
"Krause’s persistent, painstaking drive has been the edge needed to bring home more Gold Medals than the team has seen in more than a decade," an Army spokesman said.
Krause helped hone the skills of his team in historically short time period, which enabled them to compete as the official United States Team.
Traditionally it has taken a new team five or six years to develop into world-class competitors. This year the Knights’ 8-way and Ladies 4-way teams lead the way as they competed at the 2012 FAI Mondial Championships.
In 8-Way Formation Skydiving, the team leaps from an aircraft more than two miles above the ground and then races against the clock to form prescribed geometric formations in freefall while falling at speeds upward of 120 m.p.h., before opening their parachutes.
Formation 8-Way teams have 50 seconds working time with each jump to perform and gain the most points to win a medal. What it boils down to, is how many formations they can complete in the allotted time.
The Golden Knights were presented a unique trophy that the team has not held in 15 years: an Excalibur-style blade known as the Ottley Sword, named after Bill Ottley, which was crafted in 1982 from polished mahogany.
"Hard training, personal sacrifice of time and a deep desire and commitment to being number one was what made the team successful," Krause said.
Davidson, who has been with the team for 17 years, is the only member still assigned to the team who was serving as an alternate when the team brought home the Ottley Sword in 1997.
Isenbarger, a world medal holder said, "I wanted to win this for the new guys on the team so they could experience the same feeling that teammates felt fifty-three years ago when the team was originally formed."
Stahler brought back some breathtaking photographs of the team flying high over the Palms.
He also said, "I love being the cameraman. I see everything. It makes you in tune with every move each individual makes."
Adding, "Tent City was absolutely phenomenal to look out over and see hundreds of people from all different countries. Each country has their own structure where everyone gathers and they all run into a central gathering center."
"I am so very proud of both teams," Lt. Col. Jose Melendez, commander of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, said.
Adding, "It is extremely gratifying to see how all of the hard work, training and dedication have paid off. It is such a great accomplishment. They are truly Ambassadors of the Army. They are not only World Champions, but three time volunteers.
"They all volunteered to join the Army, to go to airborne school and to attend the Assessment and Selection program to qualify as a U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knight."
The Golden Knights were off an impressive 50 Gold Medals and eight Bronze Medal wins at the 2012 U.S. National Skydiving Championships, held in Eloy, Ariz., and were favored as medal winners at the world championship competition.
Krause also helped develop an All-Female 4-Way Team, which is now known as GKF4-way around the world.
Krause’s expertise and love of the sport helped develop enhanced training for this newly formed team, and allowed the new team to medal in record time.
The Golden Knights Formation Skydiving Women’s 4-Way Team, or GKF4, have only been together for two years, but have already made their mark on the world skydiving stage.
The lady Knights brought home silver with an impressive 2nd place in women’s 4-way. They fought a head-to-head battle, and were defeated by only one point to France.
GKF4 made their historic debut this year when they won the Bronze Medal at the U.S. National Championships in Eloy. This is the first time that an all-female team has ever earned a medal in the 4-way Open event.
Sgt. 1st Class Angela Nichols, the GKF4 team leader, started jumping 18 years ago on her 18th birthday with her father, and now has approximately 10,000 jumps.
She has worked with her teammates diligently producing a fearsome foursome.
Her team members are: Sgt. 1st Class Dannielle Woosley (3,000+ jumps), married with two small children; and Sgt. 1st Class Laura Dickmeyer (3,200+ jumps), who started skydiving as an extra credit assignment in her high school physics class; freefly expert Staff Sgt. Jen Schaben; and Sgt. 1st Class Scott Janise, videographer and photographer.
"I attribute the success of the ladies team taking second place in the women’s 4-way formation division to the expertise and leadership of Sergeant First Class Nichols, the camaraderie, hard work and training of GKF4," Krause said.
Time and memory are key factors for these events. The four-way discipline is judged by how many times a team can perform a specific set of geometric formations in 35 seconds of freefall.
Each formation equals one point. Two points are deducted for incomplete formations or improper hand grips.
Sixteen hundred parachutists from 58 countries had spectacular performances at Skydive Dubai at the Palm Marina.
People of all ages, religions and cultural backgrounds participated in the parachuting championship.
More than 10,000 competition skydives were made, with competitions made in formation skydiving, vertical formation skydiving, canopy formation, style and accuracy, canopy piloting, artistic events (freestyle and freeflying), demonstration events for speed skydiving (vertical freefall speed) and indoor para-skiers displaying their skills in the 12-day championship competition.
The U.S. sent a delegation that consisted of more than 60 of the best skydivers in all disciplines in the U.S.
Former Golden Knight competitors were members of the U.S. delegation, including Elisa Feldt Tennyson, who has won eight consecutive Gold Medals in formation skydiving, and four world records at the Military World Parachuting Championships when she was with the Golden Knights. She also formed the first Golden Knight female 4-way team.
Tennyson placed first in freefall style in Dubai.
Also competing was acclaimed skydiver Cheryl Stearns, the first female to make the team, who recently set the U.S. national record for the most jumps (female) with 19,000 skydives; and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Heinsheimer, Craig Gerard, Andy Honnibaughm and Chris Talbert to name a few.
The U.S. Team took home 14 medals overall – six gold, six silver, and two bronze – the most of any nation.
This victory is the best Golden Knights performance at the FAI World Parachuting Championships since 1997.
(Editor’s note: This story is based on an article by Donna Dixon. U.S. Army.)