Two University of Connecticut skydiving members won gold at the United States Parachute Association National Championship.
Jeff Harrigan and Sarah Chamberlain, two teammates dating each other, won the medals for acrobatic wingsuit flying at the competition in Rochelle, Illinois last week (Aug. 20-26).
“The feeling of freefall is, it feels more like you are floating than falling because the wind beneath you is so strong,” Harrigan said.
This has paved their way into the Wold Cup of Wingsuit Aerobatic Flying in Zephyrhills, Florida at the beginning of November.
History is being made as Chamberlain said, “This is the first year they are holding World’s for acrobatics.”
The UConn Skydiving Club competes at the collegiate level against other schools.
“Most civilian schools send no more than five people to [nationals] and we’ve sent at least 10 every year,” Harrigan said.
So, what is acrobatic wingsuit flying? Two divers, along with a cameraman will jump from the plane and perform a series of stunts chosen by judges on the ground. The second half is all freestyle where divers show their creative side by inventing new moves.
“Because wingsuit acrobatics is kind of a newer discipline, there’s not much coaching involved, so there is a lot of self-coaching,” Chamberlain said.
Members are very self-motivated, however, they do receive some coaching from experts when they travel all around the globe to compete.
The popularity of skydiving in general rises closer to the surface as Chamberlain commented, “There’s a whole underground community of skydivers.” The team has grown from three to about 16 in the past six years and the general public is still in the dark.
The stigma surrounding jumping out of a plane is danger, but that is not the case. Harrigan stated, “There’s millions of jumps per year and only 15 to 20 fatalities.” Those numbers would show that this sport is not all that dangerous as Chamberlain added, “You’re in more danger driving to the dropzone than you are jumping out of the plane.” That’s reassuring to those still on the line on whether or not they want to try this exciting activity.
The UConn team likes to take this incredible activity and add flare to it. Not only have they jumped out of an airplane, but they have also jumped out of a hot air balloon, and on two occasions, they landed on campus. Chamberlain and Harrigan have both fallen in love with jumping. They both said, “That’s what we do every weekend…You never want to say no to jumping with your friends.”
Kayla Pallette is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.