The 2018 World Parachuting Championships were held in Gold Coast, Australia Oct. 7 to 13. The United States Army Parachute Team (USAPT) the Golden Knights’ eight-way formation skydiving team earned gold medals in the eight-way open formation skydiving event with a winning score of 224 points.
In fact, the Golden Knights eight-way team tied their own world record on their final round with a score of 33 points. The Golden Knights beat the Russian eight-way team who came in second with a score of 209. The Australian Parachute Federation hosted competitors, families and officials from more than 27 nations at the 2018 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Parachuting Championships in the state of Queensland. The Golden Knights eight-way team is led by Sgts. 1st Class Sean Sweeney and Andrew Starr. Starr and Sweeney worked tirelessly to put together an excellent team of veteran parachutists to include: Sgts. 1st Class Matthew Davidson, Justin Blewitt, Joshua Coleman, Jeshua Stahler, David Flynn, Jonathan Clevenger, Master Sgt. Jennifer Davidson and videographer, Sgt. Joe Bradshaw II.
The Golden Knights made history during this competition. Davidson is the first female world champion in the 59-year-history of the USAPT in the eight-way open formation skydiving category and the second female eight-way world champion in the event’s history. She was also a former four-way all-female team world champion.
Members of the team held various positions on the Golden Knights: Flynn served as a demonstrator, the team videographer and advanced to a slot on the eight-way team: Stahler held a team-leader position on the vertical freestyle program and joined his teammates to help earn gold in the eight-way discipline. Assistant team leader Starr said, “The Russian team has been a threat for a long time. We came to the meet knowing it was going to be a tough fight, but after round one and two, we knew we had that fight in us. Hard training, sacrifice of our personal time and a deep commitment to being number one was instrumental in this victory.”
The World Parachuting Championships’ closing ceremonies included the presentation of a unique trophy the Golden Knights held since 2012, an Excalibur-style blade known as the Ottley Sword. It is named after Bill Ottley and crafted in 1982 from polished mahogany.
“We are honored to represent the United States and the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights,” Davidson said. He has been with the team for 22 years, is the only member still assigned to the team and was serving as an alternate when the team brought home the Ottley Sword in 1997.
More than 500 parachutists from 27 countries around the globe enthralled the world with their spectacular performances. All of the competitors were of various nationalities, age groups and backgrounds.
The eight-way formation skydive is a team of eight individuals leaping from an aircraft more than 2 miles above the ground and then racing against the clock to form prescribed geometric formations in free fall while falling at speeds upward of 120 mph before opening their parachutes. An additional member of the team flies above the formation to record the formations. The eight-way team has 50 seconds of work time with each jump to perform each compensatory formation and gain the most points to win a medal. What it boils down to is how many formations the team can complete in the allotted time.
The USAPT is the only Department of Defense-sanctioned demonstration parachute team with several important mission sets. The team includes not only demonstration parachutists, but also competitive skydivers, who are among the most reputable in their craft. Serving under the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and the U.S. Army Mission Engagement Brigade, the Golden Knights are stationed at the home of the Airborne at Fort Bragg. The team has a threefold mission: support the Army’s recruiting mission by performing live parachute demonstrations in front of millions of Americans and telling the Army story around the world; conduct tandem jumps for centers of influence as part of the Army’s strategic outreach program and compete and win in national and international parachuting competitions exhibiting the warrior ethos.