Mikhail Markine is a three time U.S. National 4-way Formation Skydiving Champion, World Cup Champion, and is a current member of both Arizona Airspeed and the U.S. National 8-way Formation Skydiving team.
Several years ago, Mikhail made the difficult decision to leave a secure career with Google to relentlessly pursue his passion as a full-time Formation Skydiving Competitor, fully committing himself to accomplishing his goals of becoming National and World Champion.
Though originally from Russia, Mikhail has been a member of the U.S. Team since 2013. Earlier this year, Mikhail earned his U.S. citizenship which he says has reinforced his great pride in representing the United States of America at World level competitions. He is currently training with Team USA to face the Russians in competition on their home turf at the 2021 World Parachuting Championships.
His success has been no accident. Ten years ago, Mikhail carefully crafted a personal vision statement and since then, has accomplished almost everything he set out to achieve. With his strong work ethic and his high level of talent, drive, determination and resilience, there’s no doubt Mikhail will attain everything he’s envisioned and more.
Tom Baker is an energetic and forward thinking skydiver, BASE jumper, professional aerial consultant and Hollywood stuntman. Tom has an infectious charisma and a positive energy which shines through in his personal interactions, in his passion for project innovation, and in his appetite for pushing the boundaries of body flight and sport parachuting.
Tom is to skydiving what Shaun White is to snowboarding. Not only does he look a lot like Shaun, but he also performs like him. Tom’s achievements include two World Records for the largest vertical skydiving formations, four Gold medals in Dynamic 4-way indoor skydiving, U.S. National Bronze and Silver medals in the Freestyle and Free Fly events, and is the creator of a mind-blowing and spectacular canopy piloting trick known as the, “Ginger Flip.”
In addition to his accolades as a body flight and canopy piloting ninja, Tomis also a passionate coach and an International Body flight Association level 4 Trainer. Most recently, Tom and his group, “Momentum,” organized an event called, “Flock and Flow,” a canopy piloting skills camp held at Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida which culminated in an impressive series of precisely choreographed sequences involving high-performance parachutes.
Whether he’s jumping out of planes with cars, furniture, and bombs; BASE jumping off vertical rock faces, or laying plans to jump onto and off of a retired Coast Guard light station in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Tom has crafted a kinetically charged lifestyle of stepping off the cliffs of comfort and into the vast sea of the unknown.
Jeana Billings made her first skydive in 2013 and has been on a mission ever since. In the relatively short time she’s been in the sport, she’s taken the Formation Skydiving competition world by storm. In 2018, she won the U.S. National Championships in the 8-way event with her team, Paraclete XP8. In 2019, she and XP8 became World Indoor Skydiving Champions and later that year, she became U.S. National Champion, earning the right to represent the United States in the 8-way Formation Skydiving event at the 2020 World Parachuting Championships in Tanay, Russia. Most recently, she and team USA8 won the U.S. National Indoor Skydiving Championships at Paraclete XP Skyventure in Raeford, North Carolina.
As if competing in one event at an elite level wasn’t demanding enough, she also competes in the 4-way FS event. Her incredible accomplishments have made her a highly sought after Formation Skydiving coach. She fills what time remains in her busy schedule mentoring skydivers and teams of all ability levels. Jeana also adroitly balances her commitments as a full time competitive athlete and coach with being a single mother of two teenage daughters. Jeana’s intense drive, determination, and all-in level of commitment is an inspiration to us all.
For the last ten years, the 4-way Formation Skydiving team, SDC Rhythm XP, has struggled to achieve victory at the U.S. National Skydiving Championships. A year and a half prior to competition at the 2019 U.S. Nationals, it seemed as though Rhythm’s chances for victory had slipped through their fingers once again after team member Doug Barron was involved in a catastrophic skydiving accident.
In this episode, Doug shares the incredible story of how he overcame crippling and potentially career ending injuries and went on to win Nationals Gold, earning the right to represent the United States later this year at the 2020 World Parachuting Championships in Tanay, Russia.
This past December marked the 60th anniversary of the US Army Parachute Team, “The Golden Knights.” During the team’s biennial reunion celebration, I had the great honor of spending a day and having a conversation with one of the original members of the Golden Knights, the legendary, Gerald Bourquin.
Jerry’s incredible military career includes service in the Korean War as an Engineer and in Vietnam as a Huey and Cobra helicopter pilot. Jerry is an iconic pioneer of our sport, a Champion parachutist, and an International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame inductee. Even more impressive than his incredible list of achievements, Jerry is a true gentleman – genuinely kind, sincere, and exceedingly humble.
Jerry is the embodiment of an ideal soldier and teammate who, 60 years ago, set the standards of personal and professional excellence that, to this day, all members of the Golden Knights strive to achieve.
The air is filled with excitement here at Skydive Arizona. The drop zone is buzzing with activity as teams from all across the globe finish up last minute preparations for the upcoming World Cup of Formation Skydiving and Artistic Events. During a break in training with Arizona Airspeed, I was able to sit down and have a conversation with legendary free fall photographer and videographer, Mike Mcgowan.
Mike has been deeply involved in the sport of skydiving since he first stepped out of an airplane 55 years ago. He’s made so many meaningful contributions to the sport of skydiving that it’s hard to keep track. He helped revolutionize how skydiving competitions are judged by being the first videographer to film a team from the air, an element which is a necessary and inseparable part of our sport today.
In this episode we discuss many topics including, Mike’s service in the U.S. Navy as a parachute rigger and rescue swimmer during Viet Nam, his first free fall photography jumps with a hand-held camera, detailed descriptions of the first camera helmets and the challenges Mike had to overcome with that gear; how he better prepared himself to withstand the rigors of early free fall parachuting through his dedication to physical training and how that training helped save his life after a near brush with death; emergency procedures training; Mike’s involvement in the evolution of parachute gear as an air to air photographer and videographer for research and development, his most memorable R&D experiences; Mike’s advice for aspiring free fall photographers, his involvement in World Record free fall formations, the recent release of his book titled, “Selections,” and much more!
Mike has a uniquely beautiful perspective of our beloved sport. Shining through in every photo he takes, is a genuine love for skydiving and, to an even greater degree, for his subjects of focus, the people of the sport. For over half a century, he’s captured thousands of magical moments on film and for Mike, it really is all about living in the moment. He fondly refers to free fall as, “high speed meditation.” He’s endeared himself to hundreds, if not thousands of other skydivers by capturing their special moments of high speed meditation for all to see.
I recently had the great opportunity to have a conversation with the most well known and highest achieving power couple in the sport of formation skydiving today. Together with their team, Arizona Airspeed, Craig Girard and Eliana Rodriguez have won multiple U.S. National and World Championship titles in 4-way and 8-way Formation Skydiving.
In this podcast, Craig and Eliana reveal many valuable tools and techniques which are applicable for high achievement in any endeavor. We’ll learn about mental preparations for peak performance, focused visualization techniques, mental approaches for different competition scenarios, tricks for avoiding brain locks, how to better position yourself for opportunities, and so much more!
Before they met to become the force of nature they are today, Craig and Eliana accumulated impressive lists of individual accomplishments. Before joining Arizona Airspeed, Craig was a member of The U.S. Army Parachute Team’s, “Golden Knights,” from 1986 to 1995. He has won an incredible 18 U.S. National Championship 8-way titles, is an eight-time 4-way National Champion, five-time 8-way World Cup Champion, five-time 8-way World Champion, two-time 4-way World Champion, holds three records for the world’s largest free fall formations, has accumulated in excess of 38,000 jumps, AND is a 2012 Skydiving Hall of Fame inductee. His mind boggling list of achievements and accolades defy comprehension and are simply too numerous to continue mentioning here.
Eliana is well known not only for her contagious and illuminating smile, but also for being a shining beacon of inspiration who has blazed a path as a modern day pioneer for women across our sport. She became the first and only female competitor in Arizona Airspeed’s 25 year history AND is the first woman to win an 8-way World Championship as a formation flyer!
Eliana started her skydiving career shortly after completing her military service in the U.S. Army. She became Women’s World Cup 4-way Champion in 2000 and hasn’t looked back. Since then, she’s become Women’s 4-way World Champion, 4-way Open class World Cup Champion, 8-way World Cup Champion, 8-way World Champion and 4-way Open class World Champion, an achievement widely regarded as the pinnacle of success in Formation Skydiving. Her incredible list of achievements doesn’t stop there. Eliana also holds World Records for three of the world’s largest free fall formations in addition to World Records for the largest free fall sequential formation, largest women’s free fall formation, and largest women’s vertical head down formation. And these are just SOME of the incredible things she’s achieved!
It is my GREAT pleasure to introduce this awesome couple! Please welcome, Craig Girard and Eliana Rodriguez.
Welcome to episode 5 of, A Champion’s Journey. I recently had the unforeseen and incredible opportunity to have a conversation with one of my heroes, Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld.
Dan B.C. is a seven-time World level Champion skydiver and co-founder of the highly successful skydiving team, Arizona Airspeed.
While training for competition in 1992, Dan survived a catastrophic plane crash which killed 16 people, including his close friend and teammate, James Layne and videographer Dave Clarke, who filled in for Dan’s team videographer due to a camera malfunction for that jump. Dan spent six weeks in a coma with severe traumatic injuries which included a broken neck and collapsed lung. During his long and painful road to recovery, Dan resolved to rebuild his strength and make his return to competitive skydiving.
Not only did Dan return to skydiving, but he went on to lead his team in an impressive list of achievements including four World Cup victories, three World Championship titles, and sixteen National Championship wins. After spending nearly 40 years in the sport and accumulating 28,000+ jumps, Dan has enjoyed continued success, not just as a world-class competitor but as a coach, role model, and mentor. In addition, he continues to motivate and inspire countless others with his remarkable story as an author and public speaker. Dan’s book, “Above All Else,” gives a detailed and personal account of his deeply emotional and profoundly inspirational journey.
Welcome to this special addition of A Champion’s Journey podcast coming to you from Skydive Arizona where I’m currently training with Arizona Airspeed 4-way Formation Skydiving Team.
Airspeed is a team with a rich legacy dating back to the early 1990’s. Over that time, they’ve been a formidable powerhouse on the National and International stages, winning Championship titles several times over.
Today, we’ll have a conversation with Airspeed’s Team Captain, National and World Champion, Niklas Hemlin. Nik is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. His drive and passionate obsession for his craft are uncommon even amongst his peers. In addition to being a World class athlete, Nik is a phenomenal coach, highly skilled and well versed in the rich and layered nuances of Formation Skydiving.
Nik’s Journey has had it’s share of obstacles along the way, but his vision and relentless dedication in leading Airspeed on the path to victory have given him the strength to overcome and become one of the best skydivers and most sought after coaches in the sport today.