PGA Worlds New stars: the Journey to Victory
The 12th FAI World Paragliding Accuracy Championships held in Sopot Bulgaria on October 20-28, 2023, successfully reached its exciting conclusion with a full twelve rounds completed using the new knock-out system. Remarkably the last flight by the World Champion Yang Chen (CHN) was just twenty minutes before a huge thunderstorm swept over the launch point and target area. Interestingly and to the spectators' delight, the final places in all the individual categories, literally came down to the scores achieved in their last flights of the round; with ecstasy displayed by some pilots after their landing but with understandable disappointment for others.
The skies witnessed a thrilling competition as paragliders from around the world vied for supremacy in the recent competition. 130 pilots from 31 nations came to compete. The team size was 4 pilots consisting of both males and females. All in all, there were 27 female and 18 junior pilots competing in the event.
The Journey to Victory
At the start of the competition, the leader, Yang Chen, began with a strong showing, claiming the top spot in the very first round and keeping it til round 10 when touching the target with the harness threatened him with losing the podium. However, later he managed to pull himself together and finished the last two rounds with 1 and 3 cm respectively which allowed him to discard the outlanding. All in all Yang made 4 zeros during the event but not consecutive so no record could be claimed. We remind you that the current PGA world records are "4 consecutive zeros" and "23 rounds with a score of 45 cm". Both belong to Slovenian pilots: Anton Svoljsak and Matjaz Sluga. The latter also took part in the championship and ended 22nd, being knocked out after the 10th round.
Yang Chen currently is ranked n 1 in PG Accuracy world ranking. This 44-year-old pilot from China literally rocketed to the PG Accuracy paramount. Having taken a sabbatical from FAI comps in the past years, upon returning in 2023 he took part in 13 FAI 2 competitions finishing on the podium or close to it. In particular, he is the gold winner of the Test event of PG Accuracy European championship in Albania and the bronze winner of the PGA World Cup in Germany that took place earlier this autumn.
Korean pilot Jihun Yoo was leading second in overall all the way till round 9. But as he had already a discarded one outlanding his second mistake in round 10 knocked him out and placed 33 in Overall removing him from the podium both in Juniors and competition overall. The same situation happened to Czech pilot Radek Václavik who was in the leaders till round 7 but the second error in round 8 prevented him from competing further and fixed his result as 43rd in Overall.
As the competition progressed, other contenders put up stiff competition, making it an intense battle for the top spot. The most interesting is the success of the young German pilot Linus Schubert, who rocketed on the podium pushing aside not only more experienced Aris Afriansyah from Indonesia but also his own father Andreas Schubert, beating him by 11 cm. Linus is currently ranked number 3 in the PG World and the first in Junior. Andreas Shubert is a famous paragliding accuracy pilot participating in FAI 2 and PGAWC events for more than 12 years.
The bronze winner - Aris Afriansyah from Indonesia is competing both in paragliding cross country and accuracy. Having over a decade of FAI 2 events in his experience he competes mostly in Asia, doing 3-4 events every year. His steady and well-maintained performance kept him in the top 10 till round 5. Then his not-so-good result of 7 cm in round 6 moved him a bit down. Having pulled himself together he finished 4th overall in round 8. But his 10 cm in round 11 did not let him climb higher than the 3rd place in Overall.
Among women pilots, the leader in the first 6 rounds was Rika Wijayanti from Indonesia. But her ankle injury made her lose the podium. Having achieved 1 cm in round 9 she could not compete in the last 3 rounds and finished 6th in Female ranking.
Eunyoung Cho, the eventual women's champion, on the contrary, started with a very loose performance in the first rounds, getting to her shape by round 6. But it was in round 8 that she truly soared, securing the top position with 128 cm. Her remarkable consistency and skill set her apart from the competition, ultimately leading to her victory.
As the competition unfolded, Donghwa Yang, Eunyoung Cho, and Catherine Devos were constantly swapping places holding top positions or top positions but one. Only once their sequence was interrupted - in round 8 Nathalia Pinzon Gomez from Colombia climbed to the 3rd place. But her later mistakes did not let her climb the podium. She ended 4th in Female Overall.
In Juniors Linus Schubert (GER) was naturally the first with his 35 cm after the withdrawal of Jihun Yoo from Korea. But it is remarkable to notice the outstanding performance of Junior pilots in such high-level comp - all the Junior winners were in the top 12 Overall. Rafael Carvallo from Chile and Lennard Schubert from Germany were competing head to head ending up with silver and bronze medals and 71 cm and 76 cm respectively.
The team category also brought to light the collaborative spirit of the sport. Teams from different nations showcased their skills and teamwork, making the competition a thrilling spectacle for the audience. Initially, China, Germany, and Indonesia were in the lead. But in round 6 Czech Republic and Korea broke through securing their positions in round 6. Which was the final for the Team ranking.
We congratulate the organizers on their accomplishment. The event was organized by Sports Club Shambala with the Support of the NAC of Bulgaria (Bulgarski Natsionalen Aeroklub).
Congratulations to the winners!
1. Yang Chen CHN
2. Linus Schubert GER
3. Aris Afriansyah INA
1. Eunyoung Cho KOR
2. Catherine Devos FRA
3. Donghwa Yang KOR
1. Linus Schubert GER
2. Rafael Carvallo CHI
3. Lennard Schubert GER
3. South Korea
Photo credits Jaroslav Jindra