HandiflyRACE – World’s First Indoor Skydiving Comp for Flyers with Disabilities is a Massive Success
The competition saw nearly 60 competitors from 18 different countries, all disabled, compete together in a stunning bodyflight competition.
Here at ISS, we’ve always appreciated how the accessibility of indoor skydiving for flyers of all ages, skills, and abilities. The nonprofit Windtunnel Handifly Project works tirelessly to promote that facet of the sport, offering 9,000 “discovery flights” free of charge for disabled people in 20 participating wind tunnels across Europe.
The initiative, spearheaded by the French Federation of Parachuting (FFP), has allowed over 1,000 disabled individuals from 30 nations to experience the miracle of bodyflight, learning to fly regardless of their disability, whether it’s hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, blindness, or something else. The project’s stated goal is “mass development of wind tunnel flight all around the world for people with disabilities” (you can learn more on the Windtunnel Handifly website).
Last fall, we reported on visually disabled flyers hopping into the Windoor Barcelona tunnel in Spain as part of the program. Now, Handifly has successfully held the first-ever indoor skydiving competition specifically for flyers with disabilities, christened HandiflyRACE, with the goal of enabling “people with physical disabilities to compete in complete autonomy.”
“Wind tunnel flying is an ideal way to allow any person, whatever their disability, to discover flying, and then to be able to evolve towards independent flying,” said a pre-competition release from the FFP. “With an activity where everything has yet to be invented, the #WindtunnelHandifly project aspires to contribute to equal opportunities, as well as add to a modern and exemplary symbol of social inclusiveness.”
The event, held at iFLY Aix-Marseille in France, saw 58 competitors from 18 different nations duke it out for podiums in “Expert” and “Novice” categories. Marco Pisani of Italy took the gold medal in the former category, after duking it out with two other Italian flyers and Cyrille Chahboune, of France, while Véronique Prouteau, also of France, led the field in the latter.
“We expected good flights, but it’s beyond our expectations,” said Jean-Michel Poulet, the FFP’s National Technical Director. “The competition was very exciting to watch … There was a lot of tension until the end; tension, joy, necessarily, but disappointment, too.”
“For the Experts, flirting with one’s limits, combining competition management, managing one’s physical abilities, and managing one’s stress was an expected challenge,” he added. “Apart from the notion of disability, it is this ability to resist that made the difference in the last flights.”
(Readers can find the full results from HandiflyRACE HERE. Click on each flight time to view the flyer’s performance.)
In addition to Italy and France, who fielded the majority of the flyers, other competitors hailed from the Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Monaco, Sweden, Croatia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Finland.
“It is a source of pride for the FFP to award these first medals in an international championship, but even more a joy,” said FFP President Yves-Marie Guillaud in a post-comp release. “These days of competition have demonstrated, if need be, that sportsmanship and friendship through sport inspire people whose mobility alone is reduced.”
In addition to the competition itself, the FFP stated that the event was used to conduct “live testing” of a variety of devices designed to facilitate bodyflight for disabled individuals. “Said testing phase represents a genuine laboratory of experiments that will be useful to all attendees, competitors or not,” said the FFP.
While the HandiflyRACE was the sole competition planned as part of the Windtunnel Handifly Project, and the project itself is scheduled to end on October 31st, 2022, the FFP hopes that the event’s success will provide it with enough momentum to continue.
“This is only the beginning of a long story of which we are writing the first pages, Poulet said. “We wish now that the HandiflyRACE takes off and becomes an official European and world FAI championship!”
Published: May 31, 2022 | Last Updated: June 6, 2022
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