Cornelia Mihai claims victory at the Dubai International Swoop League
The Dubai International Swoop League wrapped up its season with an exciting finale at the Desert Campus over the weekend. All three categories were fiercely contested as each new round added a twist to the tale and a new contender to the mix. The conditions made it difficult. As the mist gave way to blue skies over the desert, the winds picked up over the pond. A predominant headwind stifled the pro and advanced competitors at times, and made beginner approaches problematic.
Three new champions emerged victorious. In the pro category Cornelia Mihai showed the boys how it’s done, while Ryan Dudderidge and Salem Almeel, both first-time competitors, took top honours in the advanced and beginner categories respectively.
A travelling international contingent from the US, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand and France couldn’t manage to steal the spoils from the home team at the final DISL meet of the 2015/2016 season.
The French canopy piloting team of Julien ‘Juju’ Guiho, Guillaume Bernier, and Cedric Veiga Rios battled alongside Alter Ego’s Nick Batsch, and Danish Elite Swoop Project members Timmie Thompson and Christian Weber Jensen, but couldn’t overcome the challenge of Skydive Dubai team member and sole female pro competitor, Cornelia Mihai.
In the Pro category, PD factory team member and Skydive Dubai Flight-1 instructor Pablo Hernandez secured second place, while Cedric Veiga Rios claimed third.
Guillaume Bernier opened proceedings with the first run of the day, flirting with the centre box in zone accuracy landing inches out. That set the standard for the morning, as competitors Mohammed ‘Mo’ Baker, current world record holder for carving speed, and ‘Queen of Swoop’ Cornelia Mihai, hit the centre zone shortly afterward, achieving two perfect scores in the process. Former Team4speed member and multiple vertical formation skydiving gold-medallist, Julien ‘Juju’ Guiho, managed to secure 96 of the 100 points on offer.
The other competitors reacted in round 2 as four obtained top marks. After his first run, Guillaume Bernier had zeroed in on his target, and was joined on the list of centennials by Pablo Hernandez, Skydive Dubai’s Abdulbari Qubaisi, and Denmark’s Elite Swoop team member Timmie Thompson. But another 96 from ‘Juju’ meant he led the pack after two rounds despite landing outside the centre zone on both occasions.
Next up was distance and time for the third member of the French contingent to get in on the action. Immediately after Alter Ego’s Nick Batsch, the current world record distance holder, took full advantage of a brief respite in the headwind – advancing more than 8 metres past his nearest rival Pablo Hernandez – he was followed by Cedric Veiga Rios, who bested Batsch by 50 centimetres. Rhys Kempen also made his run count, eking-out an extra 25cm past Hernandez.
Speaking to Regan Tetlow after distance round 1, Batsch noted that some of the more experienced pilots were “coming from the upwind side” resulting in a wide gap between scores. “You can really see the difference in the distances,” he said.
At the mid-point, the leaderboard consisted of Rhys Kempen, the entire French canopy piloting team, and the three Skydive Dubai swoop team members, while out in front Hernandez was being pursued by Batsch. It was so close that less than 20 points separated Guillaume Bernier in 9th from 1st place.
The final 3 rounds
It was all to change again after distance round 2. This time Batsch edged out Veiga Rios by just over a metre, but it was local superwoman Cornelia Mihai who flew farthest, advancing beyond the rest of the pack by almost 20 metres, with a run in excess of 136 metres. “It was a good run” she commented, “I’m happy”. But she was quick to point out her position at the top of the leader board was just as precarious as Julien Guiho’s had been after accuracy, and Pablo Hernandez’s had been after that. Her tone leaves no doubt as to where her focus lies. “There’s two more jumps,” she states. “Anything can happen.”
As Murphy’s law came into play in the final 2 rounds of speed, what could go wrong, did go wrong. The boys were at it again. The fastest run of the first two passes by Pablo Hernandez was beaten on the third pass by Nick Batsch, managing to clock-in just four-one-hundredths of a second quicker, while Cedric Veiga Rios also managed to come in under the three-second mark flying into wind.
A victory for Batsch seemed to be on the cards as in one fell swoop (so to speak), he knocked Cornelia Mihai from the top three spots. Things got worse for the Skydive Dubai swoop team as Mohammed ‘Mo’ Baker shot through the course at over 100 kilometres per hour, but missed the 1.5 metre entry gate, resulting in a zero for the round. In an attempt to rectify his mistake, ‘Mo’ put down the fastest time of the day on his second run, but it wouldn’t be enough to regain his position in the top 5.
The stage was set. A clean run was all that was needed to claim the title for Alter Ego’s Nick Batsch, but the final hurdle was to prove treacherous. A gate strike as he charged from pond to podium negated his score to a 3, despite a very quick time. To rub salt in the wound, Cedric Veiga Rios, Rhys Kempen and Abdulbari Qubaisi all scored times around the 2.6 second mark, while Julien Guiho bested Baker’s record for the day with a 2.5 flat.
Once again it wasn’t to last, as one final twist was to come from the final round. Only seconds after Guiho crossed the finish line, canopy pilot extraordinaire Cornelia Mihai repeated her previous feat in distance, and initiated a coup for the second time in speed. Clocking in at 2.495 seconds, five-thousandths-of-a-second quicker than Guiho, ‘Juju’ was relegated to fourth overall. Her blistering speed meant she also managed to bypass Pablo Hernandez, attaining one single point more out of the 600 on offer, to deservedly claim her place as Dubai International Swoop League Champion.
A visibly delighted Ryan Dudderidge of Australia, based in Dubai, placed on top of the podium in the advanced category. Competing in his first competition, Ryan spent the better part of the week working on a new turn, coached by Pro competitor and Alter Ego team member Nicolas Batsch. “I don’t really have any expectations” he commented before Saturday’s proceedings, “it’s my first competition, so if I can hit the gates every time and get six scores I’ll be happy.”
And happy he was. After a hard-fought battle with Danish Swoop Project member Jesper H Pedersen, who held the lead at multiple stages throughout the day and topped the tables after zone accuracy, Ryan managed to hold on to claim victory.
Russia’s Ilja Vodolazskij, who flew consistently good runs throughout the day and led the leader board in carving speed, battled new Spanish canopy piloting team member Ricardo Lafuente, also competing in his first competition, to take the final place on the podium, ahead of Denmark’s Stefan Roenberg, and Marianne Lisberg.
The beginner category consists of 5 accuracy rounds on various targets, and one canopy kiting round, where competitors must negotiate a course on the ground while keeping the canopy inflated.
Slim margins were also to separate competitors in the beginner category. Jesse Cohen of the United States pursued Kuwait’s Salem Almeel throughout the day, but just couldn’t manage to catch him in the end, despite a perfect score in round 6. Iranian Mehdi Naghdi Pari took third despite showing a good level of consistency and overtaking Cohen on a number of occasions before the final rounds.
The Desert Campus is located just before exit 47 to Margham on the E66; which is also called locally the Dubai – Al Ain Rd. The drop zone is located approx. 35 minutes from DXB Airport and 40 minutes from the DWC Airport. Download and use the KOI App to book a ride to and from the drop zone and receive 20% off. Click here to discover all the details.
Our facilities include two air-conditioned buildings with large cushioned packing areas. While beautiful desert dunes surround the drop zone, our landing area is covered with grass. Our facilities also include: gear and wingsuit rental, rigging loft, packers, merchandise store, team rental rooms, recreation room, and a cafeteria (local currency only).
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