What started as an act of daring, with Frenchman André Garnerin putting Leonardo da Vinci's concept for a piece of lifesaving equipment to the ultimate test as he leapt from a balloon in 1797, has developed into a legitimate and highly diversified air sport: parachuting. And from the latter evolved another air sport at the close of the twentieth century: paragliding. Both make use of a fabric device with cords supporting a harness, allowing athletes to descend safely through the air. Whether parachute or paraglider, both have developed into highly sophisticated sporting equipment over the last decades, adopting the latest aerodynamic designs for inflatable "ram-air" wings.
Parachuting and paragliding feature in The World Games 2013; check the event calendar for details about when it is scheduled
DID YOU KNOW THAT...?
Canopy piloting ...
Spirits are flying high as the canopy pilots leap out of the aircraft and swoop down from the wild blue yonder. Theirability to control the deployed parachute forms the essence of the sporting performance. But on the truly three-dimensional field of play just as much control over body and mind, agility as well as supreme concentration, is prerequisite for maneuvering the square ram-air wings at horrendous speeds and close to the ground.
Paragliding accuracy ...
This event tests the paraglider pilots' ability to fly their canopy to a very small target landing pad. The target point is an electronic score pad only 30 cm in diameter with 1 m, 5 m and 10 m diameter circles surrounding it. Pilots launch at an altitude of 800 meters from a hill or with a ground-based winch. Then, allowing for any wind or air movements that may affect their progress, they fly their paragliders to the target positioned in front of the public.
Parachuting and skydiving ...
Parachuting and skydiving events have been on the Official Sports Programme of The World Games since 1997 Lahti. The events contested through 2009 Kaohsiung: 4-Way Formation Skydiving (Mixed); Accuracy Landing (Men, Women, Mixed); Canopy Formation (Mixed); Canopy Piloting (Mixed); Freeflying (Mixed). In 2001 Akita, parachuting and skydiving made for the biggest draw for spectators among all sports contested.
All of the sport's disciplines use the same piece of equipment: the parachute. In fact, two parachutes are worn, always, for a truly comforting margin of safety. A main as well as a reserve! Distinctions between disciplines are made by determining how the main parachute is used. In some, it is the athletes' ability to control the deployed parachute that is challenged, while in others, in the skydiving disciplines, the parachute is only used to land safely; the sporting performance is completed prior to its deployment.
Skydivers are capable of reaching speeds of up to 500 km/h in freefall. Terminal velocity in a head-down and streamlined body position! Through the forces of gravity alone, athletes engage in what is arguably the fastest non-powered sport ... until ram-air foils slow their descents. But even then they don't let up on the accelerator.