Sergeant Elisa K. Feldt has long been a member of the U.S. Army
Parachute Team - best known as the Golden Knights. For much of her military
assignment she has also been on its competition Style and Accuracy team.
During September 9-19, 1993 she was one of seven soldiers representing
the U.S. Army at the XXIII Parachuting Military World Championship (Conseil
International du Sport Militaire) in Kayseri, Turkey.
When the international parachuting meet was over SGT Feldt was the new
women's world military Overall gold medalist for Style and Accuracy .
Besides winning the Overall gold medal, she garnered the silver medal
for second place in Accuracy precision parachuting, and placed fourth in
In Style competition, as done by the Golden Knights competition team, a
jumper exits an aircraft at 7,000 feet, dives for some 10 seconds until
reaching 180-plus miles per hour. The freefalling parachutist must then make
a combination of six horizontal turn and vertical loop maneuvers - as an
example, pair of sequential right and left 360-degree horizontal (flat)
turns, a back loop, two more opposing right and left turns, and finishing a
"style set" with a back loop. The clock starts when the competitor begins the
first 360-degree flat turn and timing ends with completion of the last back
These high-speed competition maneuvers, assessed by skilled parachute
judges, are to be performed as quickly and cleanly as possible. "Clean" means
completing each horizontal turn and vertical loop correctly, without
"undershoot" or "overshoot" of the six required 360-degree circles. Judges'
penalties are based on number of degrees of undershoot (incomplete turn) or
overshoot (going past a prescribed heading) of a 360-degree circle, with all
turns and loops and to be started and completed on a specific heading.
Vertical loops also are made on a specific heading. Judges' assessments call
for keen eyes watching closely for improper execution. Overshoots are the
severest penalty situations because in addition to judges' adding variable
"degree penalties" for various amounts of overshoot on a left or right turn,
a competitor self-imposes added fractions of time to one's score caused by
having to return from an overshoot to a specific heading in order to start
the next prescribed turn in an opposite direction and stopping on the
Individual precision Accuracy consists of jumping from an aircraft at
2,500 feet and steering one's parachute to land on a scoring pad with a
five-centimeter or three-centimeter target disc in the center. (Target size
can vary, depending on the level of competition, i.e., local, regional,
national, international.) Striking anywhere on the five- or three-centimeter
"dead center" target is a perfect score of 0.00 centimeters - provided no
other part of a competitor's body has first made inadvertent contact at a
SGT Feldt happily declared that the XXIII World Championship was her
best competition experience. Before the meet began, she dreamt of being on
the winner's stand, sure that she would do well and get at least one medal in
three scheduled competitive events.
"When I got to the competition," she said, " and found out that there
were competitors from Russia, it made me a little nervous. This was the first
time the Russian women attended the world military championship and they had
always come out on top in other parachuting competitions."
In the Style event, Feldt got off to a poorer start than she had hoped -
eighth of 31 competitors for the first round. With the field for round two
reduced to 22 competitors, she moved up to seventh place. She intensified her
efforts in the third round and when it was over she had placed second of 18
jumpers. The final round consisted of just five jumpers, and SGT Elisa Feldt
placed first for the fourth round. The times for each round for each
competitor were added together to get an individual's total time. Feldt
finished in fourth for the entire Style event, but had made quite an
impressive comeback, contributing immensely to her Overall standing.
"I was too excited before my first jump and didn't do too well," she
said. "Following my first jump, I got some words of wisdom from fellow
teammates to settle down and work my way back to the top. They told me I
shouldn't try to play catch-up to get back into competition. That would mean
doing something I'm not capable of. Instead, I took one jump at a time and
tried to make each one a personal best."
The Accuracy competition was a bit easier for SGT Feldt, who placed
second following 10 rounds of competition, with a total of 6 centimeters. The
winner, from Thailand, had a total of 5 centimeters. Russia, always strong in
Accuracy competition, placed third with 7 centimeters.
In the Overall standings, Elisa Feldt won First Place for the United
States, with Russia in Second Place, and Uzbekistan in Third Place.
"It's great to be the Overall winner," she said, "but until I actually
place first in both events to win it, I won't feel like a world champion."
"My goal is to be the best in Style, and, of course to be world
champion. I feel I'm better at Accuracy, but I enjoy doing Style better. It's
SGT Feldt wasn't the only American parachutist to return with a medal
round her neck. Her male teammates won Third Place for Men's Accuracy with a
total-distance score of 13 centimeters.
The Czech team won that event with a total-distance score of 11
centimeters, while Slovenia placed Second with 12 centimeters. A total
distance of only two centimeters separated First Place from Third Place.
At the time of her gold medal parachuting achievement Feldt had
approximately 2,700 freefall jumps after five five years as a Golden Knight,
and a total of six years in the army. That jump total keeps steadily
All her Golden Knights training paid off. She noted, "We train five days
a week and jump six to eight times a day, weather permitting." Such intensive
training paid off impressively for Elisa at the U.S. National Skydiving
Championships in June 1993 - held three months before the XXIII Parachuting
Military World Championship in which she won her gold medal. She placed
second in each Nationals event (Style, Accuracy, and Overall).
But competition at the international level demands even greater
individual and team skills and there was more intensive steady training after
the U.S. Nationals.
By the time the World Meet in Turkey was over, she had decreased her
total three-round Style time from 30.17 seconds (10.06 seconds average) to
29.74 seconds (9.91 seconds average); decreased her 10-round Accuracy
total-distance score from 29 centimeters to 6 centimeters; and finished First
Overall, moving up from Second Place.
SGT Feldt is still in the U.S. Army, still serving with the Golden
Knights, and is now a member of the current Style/Accuracy U.S. Parachute
Team, having qualified at the 1995 U.S. Nationals. However, she might be up
for assignment to duty in Italy.
Elisa Feldt worked hard and long to advance from novice skydiver to a
world champion competition parachutist, and she looks forward to greater
accomplishments in parachuting.
©Copyright 1996 by Jan Meyer.