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Colombian takes wingsuit crown

Updated: 2013-10-13 23:27
By WEN XINZHENG in Changsha and XU WEI in Beijing ( China Daily)

Colombian takes wingsuit crown

Colombian wingsuiter Jhonathan Florez, the champion of the Second World Wingsuit Championship, starts his flight at Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, on Sunday. Guo Liliang / for China Daily

Colombian wingsuiter Jhonathan Florez was crowned champion of the Second World Wingsuit Championship on Sunday, in a tournament marred by the death of Hungarian wingsuit flyer Victor Kovats.

Florez edged ahead in the final held at Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, with a jump of 23.40 seconds, followed by US flyer Noah Bahnson and Frenchman Vincent Descols.

Kovats plunged to his death during a trial flight at the Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park on Tuesday and was confirmed dead by rescuers on Wednesday.

Out of respect for the memory of Kovats, the World Wingsuit League decided not to jump the side of the mountain where he had crashed. It insisted the death was "an isolated incident".

Because of the accident, the contest was reduced from three days to two, concluding on Sunday.

The final on Sunday began with a moment of silence for Kovats.

During the two-round final, eight finalists leaped from a 1,480-meter mountain cliff and whizzed through a 1.2-kilometer-long course, including along a valley and past another mountain ridge, before landing by parachute on a mountain road.

The rules were simple: The fastest one to complete the course wins.

With speeds of up to 180 km per hour and steep terrain all around, there was no margin for error.

Tian Huilin, deputy general manager of Tianmen Mountain Tourism, one of the organizers of the competition, said the route of the competition was a stiff test of the skills of the athletes taking part, especially in terms of maintaining balance.

"The balance of the body is the key, because you could easily crash into the mountain cliffs at such high speeds," he said.

French flyer Vincent Descols led in the first round with a jump of 23.74 seconds, followed by British athlete James Boole and Tony Uragallo.

However, Florez came from behind in the second round with an overwhelming performance at 23.4 seconds, breaking the tournament record of 23.41, which was was set by South African Julian Boulle last year.

Florez, who has more than 10 years' experience in wingsuit flying, with 4,000 skydives and 3,000 wing-jumps, made headlines last April as he won four world records for wingsuit flying, including the longest wingsuit flight in terms of duration and the highest altitude wingsuit jump.

He was ranked fourth in last year's First World Wingsuit Championship, which was held in the same venue.

Florez told zjjzx.cn, a local news portal, that he was thrilled to be crowned champion in the beautiful scenery at the Tianmen Mountain and now he just wanted to go home and reunite with his family.

Contact the writers at wenxinzheng@chinadaily.com.cn and xuwei@chinadaily.com.cn

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