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WAG Dubai 2015: Glider Aerobatics

Luca Bertossio over Skydive Dubai

Luca Bertossio is the champion of champions! He won the 2015 edition of the Glider Aerobatics World Air Games in Dubai, the most difficult and complete competition of glider aerobatics, the one that is reserved to the best glider pilots in the world only.

The World Air Games are reserved to champions: only the best 9 athletes from all of the world, one per nation, can compete. The pilots in the race were much more experienced and had won many more titles than Luca Bertossio. Maciej Pospieszynski, Polish, is a two times world Champion; Georgy Kaminskiy, Russian, is a three times world

Ferenc Toth before the freestyle

champion; and Ferenc Toth, Hungarian, is also a three times world champion, besides being the 2015 reigning champion. But none of them ever won first place at the World Air Games.

The truth is that at the WAG level, talent and technical ability can be taken for granted. Most pilots could argue that being amongst the chosen WAG participants is a great accomplishment in itself.

the russian glider swift s1

Of course, this makes the World Air Games an even tougher competition, and it is therefore the pilot’s mind set that makes the difference. In this competition, Luca Bertossio proved to have all that was required to be a real champion: brains, true grit and cold blood.

Eric Lentz Gauthier sitting in the swift s1 talking to Ferenc Toth, on the right is Eric's brother

Luca Bertossio and the American pilot Eric Lentz Gauthier followed the strategy developed in in Castel Viscardo, under the supervision of two key people: Sandor Katona, who is Luca's coach, and of the 2009 WAG Champion, the italian pilot Pietro Filippini.

There were three flights at the WAG. The third flight, the Freestyle, is generally Luca’s trademark flight. But the strategy he adopted had him lay all his cards on the first flight, the G1.

Luca Bertossio and his coach, Sandor Katona
Markus Feyerabend ready for take off

Although both Luca and Eric were training in the same place with the same people, they decided on extremely different tactical choices. Eric tried to exploit the fact that the positioning grade had very little impact on the overall performance, and therefore tried to extend his flying by presenting many figures that did not have great altitude changes or direction changes. He knew this would bring him out of the box, but also considered that it would allow him to fly many maneuvers and therefore gain points.

Luca Bertossio on the runway with his team

On the other hand, Luca bravely planned a program with a very high “K” (391- where the K generally flown in the world championships is 230), challenging the rest of the pilots, who flew a much more conservative program. The tactical choice made was to fly every maneuver very slowly, in order to waste the least possible amount of energy. Luca performed each figure, one after the other, slowly and perfectly, under the eyes of his fellow competitors.

Luca Bertossio won the G1 with more than a 200 point advantage (out of 1700) over the second in, the defending world champion Ferenc Toth. He recieved the news of his victory in the G1 through a whatsapp message from Italy.

Luca Bertossio flying over Dubai

Surprisingly, he did not give in to much emotion. He smiled, for sure he was very happy, but what he did was take one picture with his Italian supporters and friends, and immediately started ground-training for

Luca Bertossio after learning he won the G1, with his friends and supporters

The G2 is the unknown flight: the program that no one has trained before. Each pilot prepares one figure, and the program is composed of 7/9 figures chosen by drawing lots. Luca’s figure was not picked, which was a slight disadvantage. However, the results were quite satisfying: the first three pilots (1. Ferenc Toth, 2. Georgy Kaminskiy, 3. Luca Bertossio)

Romain Vienne

were all in 21 a point difference (out of 1500), which left Luca Bertossio with a Bronze medal for the G2 and and still maintaining an almost 200 point advantage over the other competitors in the overall results. His strategy was correct.

The third and last flight was the G3 program. World Air Games are the only FAI competition in which gliders fly freestyle.

Siegfried Mayr
Luca Bertossio working on the smoke system
Russian team working on the smoke system

This is the program in which the pilot’s mind strength made the real difference. All pilots were under pressure: it was the last flight, and there was very little time, for most pilots, between the G2 and the G3 flight. But besides this, Luca Bertossio and Ferenc Toth, the two rivals fighting for first place, were especially challenged in unpleasant ways during the G3 flight.

Luca Bertossio was meant to fly first. He is an airshow

Luca Bertossio's airshow heart

But as soon as the the music started…there was a moment of silence: the smoke system of the glider failed to work: the red smoke (the most visible) did not start. It is the famous Murphy law that is taught to pilots whilst earning their license… "Anything that can possibly go wrong, does". In this split second, you are faced with the alternative of either being a champion, or simply a good and unlucky pilot. This is where Luca gave his best: he quickly resorted to his true grit and did what only he could do:

Swift S1 landing after the freestyle flights

When the turn of Ferenc Toth came up, he had his fair share of problems too.

Markus Feyerabend, Freestyle winner at WAG 2015

Although all athletes were flying the same type of glider, the Swift S1, every glider has slight differences.

Eric Lentz Gauthier during the freestyle flight at WAG Dubai

All pilots flew the Freestyle quite well. The French pilot Romain Vienne will be remembered for the best tailslide ever. Siegfried Mayr and Eric Lentz Gauthier had very interesting sequences. However, the G3 was won by the German pilot, Markus Feyerabend, who made an outstanding performance. The silver medal of the freestyle went to the Russian pilot, Georgy Kaminskiy. Bertossio won third place in the G3, and the rest is history. Luca Bertossio is the youngest pilot ever to win the Glider Aerobatics World Air Games.

Luca Bertossio, Ferenc Toth and Premysl Vavra at award ceremony in WAG Dubai

Sandor Katona and Luca Bertossio

award ceremony, Luca Bertossio biting the gold medal

Sandor Katona and Luca Bertossio

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