Student skydiver dives into contest
Electrical engineering senior Simon Palacio, along with his team, competed in the vertical formation skydiving event at the annual U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships last week in Chicago.
Over 500 aerial athletes competed at the event. Palacio’s event in the competition — vertical formation skydiving — involves a team of four competitors building a series of formations in upright and upside-down vertical body positions.
The skydivers are assigned three to four vertically-oriented formations per round. The goal is to build the formations as many times as possible from the time the team exits the aircraft to 35 seconds into the dive. The competition consists of eight rounds.
“Skydiving makes me feel liberated and free,” Palacio said. “It has changed my life and brought me so many opportunities that I cannot imagine my life without.”
Skydive Chicago previously hosted the event in 2007; Houston hosted the event for the first time in 2009 at Skydive Spaceland — the reason Palacio became involved with skydiving competitions to begin with.
“Since the event was in my own backyard and I had become a talented skydiver, some friends and I decided we would not pass up the opportunity to put a team together and compete,” Palacio said.
That year Palacio’s team competed in two events and took the silver medal in each.
“Bringing national competition into my hobby has changed the sport for me for the better, and now I want to train and compete each year,” he said.
This year Palacio’s team finished in fourth place, after North Carolina took a narrow lead in the second to last round of the competition. Utah came in first place, Illinois came in second and North Carolina came in third.
“Taking this hobby has brought more gratification to my life than any other thing I have ever been exposed to,” Palacio said.
In seven years of skydiving, Palacio has done about 2,800 jumps and became a multi-rated skydiving instructor in 2006.
Palacio and his team hope to compete in the next USPA national competition in October 2011 at Skydive Arizona in Eloy, Ariz.
“Now that Nationals are completed for the year,” Palacio said, “I’ll be around doing a lot more teaching this fall at Skydive Houston in Waller and will be more than happy to help fellow college students become licensed skydivers.”