The US Army Golden Knights Competition Team nearly swept all four Formation Skydiving events at the 2011 US Nationals, thereby earning the title of Combined Overall Champions for the first time in over a decade.
Competition began early Monday morning with the 4way event. The Golden Knights Gold 4way Team (SFC Brian Krause, SFC Kurt Isenbarger, SFC Matt Davidson, SFC Sean Sweeney, and SSG Drew Starr) had a rough start in Round 1. With less than 50 4way training jumps on the year, expectations were not too high for the 4way event, as the Team once again focused on the 8way event for the 2011 season. Nevertheless, the GK Gold 4way team battled back from an early deficit, and found themselves close to medal contention by mid-competition. The top 3 4way teams- Arizona Airspeed, Perris Fury, and Chicago Rhythm XP all made between 400-700 training jumps in preparation for the 2011 US Nationals. GK Gold, relying on training from previous years and maximum focus, overtook Perris Fury and Chicago Rhythm XP in the final 2 rounds, securing the Silver Medals in the 4way Competition, with 218 points after 10 rounds.
The Golden Knight Female 4way Team (GKF4) made their US National debut at this competition as well. The team hit the training hard after the 2011 World Parachuting Cup in Saarlouis, Germany and it really paid off. Out of the gate, the team scored an 18 on round 1. Of the open class teams, there were only two other female teams, Super Sonic and the Furies. After the dust settled, GKF4 finished with 174 points, a full 34 points ahead of the next female team, the Furies. The team average was 2.1 points higher than their last performance in Germany and a new team best for them. With this, GKF4 was named to the US Team for the 2012 World Meet. GKF4 also had a personal victory, beating their team counterpart, Golden Knights Black, by a mere 3 points. Check out the GKF4 Rounds 1-10 – Nationals 2011.
The Golden Knights 8way Team entered the US Nationals as the reigning 2011 World Cup Champions, and expectations were high. Placing 3rd at the World Cup, the Russian 8way Team traveled to Arizona to challenge GK8 once again, and Arizona Airspeed assembled their very talented 8way lineup consisting of multiple world champions.
The first 2 rounds of competition proved to be challenging for GK8 as they transitioned directly from the 4way event with no practice 8way jump. In fact, the Russian 8way team beat GK8 by 1 point in Round 2, but that would be the last and only round lost by the Golden Knights. GK8 built quickly on an early lead and distanced themselves from Russia and Airspeed as the meet continued. At the completion of Round 10, the Knights scored 212 total points, 35 points ahead of Russia and 42 points ahead of Airspeed. The US Army Golden Knights 8way Team will represent the United States in the 8way event at the 2012 World Championships of Formation Skydiving in Dubai.
The 16-way event followed, and proved to be the tightest competition at the 2011 US Nationals, with the Golden Knights and Airspeed battling for first place. The GK Female 4way team joined GK8 with Paraclete XP filling in the remaining 4 slots on the 16way Team. Entering the final round of 16way Competition, the Knights held a 1 point lead over Airspeed. Tensions were high as both teams climbed up to 13,000ft for the final round. Once on the ground, the live judging revealed that the Knights beat Airspeed by 1 point in the final round, winning the 16way Competition. The narrow victory was truly a total team effort.
With one event remaining, 10way Speed, the Golden Knights hoped to continue their winning streak. Once again, Airspeed would try to end it. 10way is a very aggressive event where teams bail out of the aircraft very forcefully and try to build a 10way formation as quickly as possible. The team with the lowest timed score wins the round, and after 6 rounds the team with the least amount of total time wins the event. In this case, seconds truly count! The GK 10way team held on to an early lead and won the event, 6 seconds ahead of Airspeed. The GK 10way finished up the last round with a special tribute. Click here to check out the Ted Strong Tribute.
The Combined Overall Champions in Formation Skydiving is awarded to competitors who compete in at least 3 of the 4 events and score the highest in those events. With members of the Golden Knights 8way Team winning 8way, 16way, and 10way, they earned the title of Combined Overall Champions. The 1999 US Nationals was the last time the Golden Knights won the overall, as Arizona Airspeed has been a dominant force ever since. At the completion of the 2011 US National Championships in Formation Skydiving, it is safe to say that the GK Competition Team is putting the “Gold” in Golden Knights.