Despite having to juggle both schoolwork and training on top of the many uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, a team of five youths braved immense challenges in Belgium and flew the Singapore flag high.
The team tested their mettle in the world’s largest indoor skydiving competition – the 4th FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving 2022 (WCIS), held from April 5 to 10 in Charleroi, Belgium. The young indoor skydiving team, which comprises Kyra Poh (19), Kai Minejima-Lee (13), Vera Poh (12), Isabelle Koh (14), and Jordan Lee (17), participated in the Freestyle (Open), Freestyle (Junior), 2-Way Dynamic Junior (Speed and Free), and 4-Way Dynamic Junior (Speed) disciplines.
The Singapore team competed in four of the 10 categories in the competition, putting up a spirited performance and bringing home Gold medals in all four. The team, which has been preparing for the competition in Belgium since February 2021, faced stiff competition against many talented athletes hailing from nations across the globe. Despite the strong competition, the Singapore team managed to achieve Gold in the most number of categories at this year’s World Cup.
Gold medallist Kyra Poh (centre) with 1st runner-up Maja Kuczynska (left) and 2nd runner-u[ Toms Ivans (right)
19 year-old Kyra Poh has outdone herself this year by achieving the top score for four out of gif rounds to clinch the Gold medal after facing off 18 other competitors in the Freestyle Solo category. “I feel honoured to place first in the Open category for Freestyle. It was a great competition with many skilled competitors and I’m happy to make my country proud. I couldn’t have done it without the support from our Singaporean flying family and I’m especially proud of the kids for their achievements too,” said Kyra.
Despite his young age, 13 year-old Kai Minejima-Lee has already taken part in no less than five international skydiving competitions since 2017. Kai secured himself a Gold medal after a close fight against his competitors in the Freestyle Junior category, catching the attention of both judges and audience members alike. On top of winning Gold in the Freestyle Solo Junior Category, Kai is also the only athlete to have won three Gold medals in the competition.
Freestyle Solo Junior Gold Medallist, Kai Minejima-Lee (centre) with 1st runner-up Sydney Kennett (left) and 2nd runner-up Gabriela Haga Chacon (right)
“It’s been an amazing experience representing Singapore for my first ever World Cup and winning Gold makes the experience even better. I hope this will inspire more kids to take part in the sport because there is so much love in our local indoor skydiving community. My home tunnel, iFly Singapore, and Uncle Lawrence have always believed in me, and I am grateful to them,” said the newly minted World Cup Gold medallist, adding special thanks to Mr. Lawrence Koh, CEO and Founder of iFly Singapore.
The 2-Way Dynamic Junior Team comprising of 12-year-old Vera Poh and Kai Minejima-Lee, go way back. They have been competing together since the Australian Indoor Skydiving Championships in 2017 as a 2-Way Vertical Formation Indoor Skydiving Intermediate team and thereafter as 4-Way Dynamic Speed teams with other teammates. They even clinched Gold as the 4-way Dynamic Speed team at the Open Belgian Championships just last year. Vera, who is the younger sister of fellow team member Kyra, has been skydiving since she was three. Among her impressive array of accomplishments include obtaining Gold in 2-way Dynamic Speed at the Open Belgian Championships alongside Kyra.
This year, in the 2-Way Dynamic Junior category newly added to the competition, Kai and Vera have reunited for the first time as a 2-Way Dynamic team to snag the Gold medal for their excellent teamwork and coordination in the wind tunnel, stunning the judges with carefully choreographed moves with speed routines at breakneck speeds.
“We’ve trained hard for the past year, and we were really looking forward to the World Cup. We were quite confident about our performance because we had so much support from our parents and tunnel family,” said Vera.
Kai added: “I’ve flown with Vera for a few years and this competition is the best we have probably ever performed together as a 2-way team. Of course, behind every team is an even stronger support team like Vera said. We are lucky to have everyone support us.”
4-Way Dynamic Junior Gold Medallists (Singapore; left to right): Jordan Lee, Kai Minejima-Lee, Vera Poh and Isabelle Koh
For the four-person team – comprising of Kai Minejima-Lee, Vera Poh, Isabelle Koh, and Jordan Lee – achieving Gold in the 4-Way Dynamic Junior Speed category was no easy feat, as this was the first time the four teens have competed in a team with each other.
Beyond having to contend with the new team dynamic, this was Isabelle’s first competition after undergoing spine surgery in November 2021. Additionally, this was also Jordan’s first foray competing in the 4-Way Dynamic Category, as he usually competes in the 4-Way Formation Skydiving category.
Instrumental in their success was their team mentor and coach, Choo Yixuan who worked tirelessly to ensure that they were well prepared in the lead up to the competition.
“It has been a long journey leading up to competing in the World Cup. Having spent some months recuperating from spinal surgery, I’m so proud that we managed to put such a strong performance together.” said Isabelle.
“This win was really satisfying since it’s my first time competing in a dynamic discipline, and my first time being a part of this four-way team. I am really proud of how we worked together for the World Cup.” said Jordan.
More information about the competition can be found here.
Images: iFly Singapore