27 Aug 2019

Forging Young Careers

The 5th Australian Indoor Skydiving Championships were held recently. They were the biggest ever, with the highest participation, with more events for more skill levels than ever, and with a record purse at stake. But the real story was found elsewhere.

The 2019 Australian Indoor Championships took place at the iFLY wind tunnel in Penrith, 50 km west of Sydney, on 23 and 24 August. The event didn't go unnoticed by the Australian media, local as well as national. As had to be expected, the biggest story by far was the one on the reigning World Champion in Junior Freestyle as well as the defending Australian Champion Open and Junior in the same discipline.

Allan, Amy and Muay Watson © DT

Amy Watson, 13, became the youngest FAI Indoor Skydiving World Champion in Junior Freestyle at the 3rd World Championships in Lille, France, back in April of this year. By that time she was the darling of the media across Australia already, with regular appearances on national television and write-ups in the mainstream press.  But having an official world title in addition to her Guinness Book World Record (44 horizontal 360-degree spins performed in 60 seconds) made her even more of a star.

Her charisma combined with the determination to get to the top of her sport helps to convey a positive message – even when things do not work out quite as planned.

“I dream of Indoor Skydiving making the Olympics – but it didn’t make it for Paris 2024," Amy tells The Daily Telegraph during the Nationals last weekend.

One thing is certain, at age 13 Amy does have all the time in the world to wait and to prepare for an opportunity even farther in the future.

“There is now a new bid for it to be included in the 2028 Olympics in America, so I would love to represent my country in the Olympics. I would also like to inspire other young people to get into this sport,” says Amy on another occasion.

Thanks to her parents doing what many do in other, far more established sports, Amy was able to reach the peak. Titles valued beyond those she currently holds, including the two Australian Champion 2019 titles in Freestyle Junior/Open she has won now, are not available at this time. What sacrifices Allan and Muay Watson must have made to get their daughter to where she is, we can only guess.

“Training varies a lot depending if I am training for an upcoming competition. If so, then the training really intensifies. I did 20 hours in February in three different tunnels: Sydney, Paris and Belgium. My new coach lives in France,” Amy sums up a a training regime that must cost a figure in the mid to high five-digit range.

But this could change in the near future. According to The Daily Telegraph (a News Corp paper), Amy Watson and her mother Muay are ready to leave Australia and to set up home in Thailand. With the Thai military acting as a sponsor and funding Amy's training there, the next big goal seems well within reach. Amy could compete for Thailand at the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022,  games which are nearly as important as the Olympics for the 45 countries making up the Olympic Council of Asia.

It is an uplifting story about Amy and her unique sport. However, one caveat should be made right about now. On the Olympic Council's website for the Hangzhou Asian Games, Indoor Skydiving does not appear among the 46 sports/disciplines featuring in 2022. Even if there could be ambiguity in how the sports/disciplines are listed there, and in how they were announced to the generalist and specialist media upon selection, not appearing anywhere other than in the ASIANIA report attached to the minutes of the IPC Meeting 2019 does not exactly bode well.  But then, who knows ...?

One thing is certain, there has not been any bid submitted for inclusion of Indoor Skydiving into the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics by the FAI or by the FAI Member for the USA, the National Aeronautic Association. They are the only bodies that could do so for the Games happening 9 years from now.

If you have been able to bear with me until now, allow me to make one more point: Indoor Skydiving 2020 | First Global Summit by FAI has minimum one session on the air sport discipline's participation in mutli-sport games scheduled. That is why you should RSVP and register for the summit ASAP. Be informed and adopt a tunnel vision of the broadest kind!

Text: Roland Hilfiker