Performing to perfection for the masses without a moment of hesitation or distraction is the primary mission of the US Army Parachute Teams Golden Knights, however with a breath taking view of the Arabian coast, the largest building in the world and the Palm Jumeirah Island it is slightly difficult to focus on the task at hand. It is difficult when your stage is exiting an aircraft over one of the most scenic places in the world. Dubai set the stage and sets the standard higher than any country could ever imagine when offering the perfect place to compete in a skydiving event that is one of the biggest and most elaborate in history. Dubai is the second largest of the 7 Emirates in the United Arab Emirates and is one of the richest nations in the world. It’s beautiful scenery, elaborate structures and spare no expense attitude towards just about everything that could be made luxurious makes it the ideal place to visit.
Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, The Crown Prince of Dubai, the Organizing Committee Emirates Aviation Association and Skydive Dubai proudly host the second edition of one of the most spectacular parachuting competitions in the history of extreme sports. Competitors from 5 continents compete for medals and a total prize purse of $240,000.00
Two competitors from the US Army Parachute team, SFC Greg Windmiller and SFC Elisa Tennyson represented the Golden Knights and the United States as members of Team USA. The US is only one of 41 countries competing in this invitational parachuting competition. Collectively there are over 419 competitors, battling it out for medals trophies and over $240,000 in total cash prizes. There are 3 separate events being conducted simultaneously. Formation Skydiving, classic accuracy and canopy piloting.
SFC Tennyson, the current and 8 time US National women’s accuracy champion competed in a field of 49 women competitors in precision accuracy. As demanding as it is to not get distracted by the beautiful scenery now imagine attempting to fly a parachute and land on a target equal to the size of a nickel which is only 2 centimeters in diameter. With the tiny yellow dot as the target, it was off and running for SFC Tennyson as she gracefully floated down and the electronic scoring system buzzer went off as she scored a perfect dead center landing on her first jump. SFC Tennyson was in the 4th position and set up to take an overall medal with only one more jump to go, as one of the competitors that was in front of her had a less than stellar jump and with a good score SFC Tennyson was prepared to take home a medal. Unexpectedly and with only a few jumpers to go to complete the competition, the remaining jumpers were cancelled and the previous round was thrown out leaving SFC Tennyson in the 4th position.
SFC Windmiller, the current and 2 time US National champion in canopy piloting Speed, the current world record holder and ranked 2nd in the United States in Canopy piloting, represented the Golden Knights and the US in his discipline. He was among 3 other US competitors that made up the official US delegation in canopy piloting. There were a total of 90 competitors representing 23 countries in Canopy piloting, a discipline which consists of 3 separate events, speed distance and accuracy.
The Distance event was the first event to complete as Windmiller took top honors and won the Gold. The last day of competition and the completion of the meet ended in a strange twist of events, just as it had happened to SFC Tennyson earlier in the day, SFC Windmiller made his last jump in the Accuracy event count as it was near perfect, moving him from the 6th place to 1st in that discipline, earning him the Gold medal and moving him to 3rd overall winning the Bronze in the individual overall category. With no one left remaining to jump able to pass his overall score and locking up 3 gold medals and 1 bronze for the US Team, the unexpected and unexplainable happened. The meet director stopped the remaining 15-20 competitors from jumping which would have only taken approximately 20-30 more minutes to complete and declared the previous 70 jumps invalid and just like that, the meet was over. The decision to stop the competition was confusing to say the least and caused quite a bit of controversy.
When asked about the decision to make the circling aircraft land and “throw out” the previous jumpers scores SFC Windmiller stated. “As a competitor I understand that things happen that are uncontrollable. It is the nature of competition and every now and again you are the proverbial windshield, but being a competitor, I don’t feel as though I can complain or have the right to be upset because, if my performance had been better in the beginning I would have been in the lead the whole time and had nothing to lose. I am just proud to have the opportunity to compete and represent my country, my military, and as a member of the Golden Knights. If I were to consider myself a leader, then I have to lead by example and this means to win with pride and humility and to accept defeat with the same pride and humility. I personally don’t consider winning 2 Gold medals loosing, but as a member of the Golden Knights I am expected to perform and win, besides 2 medals are always better than none.”
SFC Windmiller also won $5,000.00 which was left for the organizer to be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project on the Golden Knights behalf.