Newbridge man Declan O'Connell (far right) with his team
A Newbridge man was a key player in a record breaking feat when his sky diving team became the first Irish group to ever set foot on the podium at the World Indoor Sky Dive Championship.
Not content with second or third, the quartet scooped the gold in their category at the event held on April 1 and 2 in Bedford, UK.
Declan O’Connell from Cedarwood Park, and his teammates, Hassan Alouiti, Carlow; and Renata Gravazda and Aoife Henshaw from Dublin now have time to reflect on their victory.
“Winning gold was a tremendous feeling, I knew we had a great chance if we could finish strong in last two rounds which we did, it’s basically ten rounds of 35 seconds randomly picked out of a dive pool suitable for your category. You do the formation as many times correctly and score points so 14 or 14 each round is excellent. This was my first competition and as a four way team we were a ‘rookie’ team in all aspects. We never jumped together before so finding our correct fall rates and wind speed was challenging as we are all weights and different sizes.”
Declan explains that five rounds were done on Friday followed by the next five on Saturday in the wind tunnel.
“Our team was part of a four way sky dive team project called project 4way based in Irish parachute club, Clonbullogue Offaly,” he added.
Ronan Whelan from Monasterevan is the team’s coach.
“We are the only team from Ireland ever to medal in sky dive international competition so to win gold was truly amazing and a proud moment to stand on the podium with gold.”
No stranger to sporting endeavours, the former Patrician Brothers’ student played Gaelic football for Sarsfields and soccer for Newbridge Town.
Having completed 26 years in the army, he is currently Company Sargent in the Cadet School Military College at the Curragh. With 200 jumps under his belt Declan started sky diving in the army in 2004 and went on various trips to Russia and Spain to build up jump numbers. He is currently on the Black Knights army parachute display team panel, who are doing a demo jump into the Curragh field day on April 24.
His team will now complete in the Irish National Sky Dive competition in August in Clonbullogue before returning to Bedford for the return 4 way challenges.