Using pinpoint accuracy and skills gained from his time with the U.S. Air Force Academy, Novato native Matthew LoVetri took home two gold and two silver medals this month in what is said to be the world’s largest and oldest skydiving competition.
Competing in the 2018 U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in Arizona, LoVetri received one gold medal for his prowess in the sport diving category in which divers attempt to land on a 1-foot diameter target after jumping at a height of 4,000 feet. Of his four jumps, LoVetri deployed his parachute and hit dead center three times. LoVetri and three of his classmates from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs also took home a second gold medal in the team sport diving category.
With more than 350 jumps logged, the 21-year-old LoVetri said his accuracy has developed with persistent practice as well as trial and error during his time with the Air Force’s Wings of Blue parachute team.
“It’s just a learning experience and you kind of learn how your canopy flies and how to get the right picture in mind,” LoVetri said, describing his process of making an accurate landing. “You look at the winds, because the winds have a really big factor and then you kind of judge it from there. And you go off prior experience of what you know, through my personal plan of how I like to set up in my pattern and how I like to come in to my target. From there it’s eye-foot coordination toward the very end.”
Nancy Koreen, director of sports promotion for the U.S. Parachute Association, said LoVetri won the golds in the intermediate category of skydivers, with categories ranging from novice to expert based on the number of jumps the participants have performed. Koreen said to hit the target dead center takes quite a bit of practice.
“Getting close to the target is pretty straightforward, but hitting it accurately takes a lot more precision,” she said.
LoVetri said he and another teammate took home a silver medal for another category in which they must complete a sequence of moves mid-air, such as switching from sit-flying, to back-flying to belly-flying, within 35 seconds. LoVetri and five other teammates received a second silver medal in the six-way speed competition where the divers line up on the plane, jump out at the same time and attempt to link together in mid-air as fast as possible. While they were defeated by West Point for the gold, LoVetri said they set an Air Force record with their fastest time of 8.97 seconds.
Growing up in Novato, LoVetri said he never had skydived before he began attending the academy. In the summer before his sophomore year, he said he decided to take a course to learn to skydive. While many skydivers’ first experience is with a dive instructor, LoVetri said he believes the Air Force’s program is the only one in the world where the first five dives are taken alone. LoVetri continued to dive until he had enough training and experience to join the Wings of Blue team.
For LoVetri, skydiving has been a way to escape the daily grind of school work and to bond with some of the best people he says he’s ever met. While he said his mom and dad were a little worried at first, LoVetri said his parents weren’t surprised when he told them about the new sport he’d taken up.
After graduating the academy, LoVetri will not be able to jump with the Wings of Blue anymore. His plans are to go into pilot training where he said he hopes to fly “anything fast and pointy.”
“I want to thank the Wings of Blue and the Air Force Academy for bringing me such an amazing opportunity and something that has really fulfilled my academy experience,” LoVetri said.
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