The parachute troopers skilfully guide their descent toward the red carpet in the middle of the enclosure. When the first of them lands straight down on the small three centimetre sensor, there is a sharp beep. And a roar from the Swedes on the ground: team leader Elisabeth Klippinger, paratrooper Helene Eriksson and unit commander Bengt Axelsson.
“Your jumping is really stable!” says Elisabeth Klippinger in praise of the newly zero-scoring Adam Stålsmeden from the Guard Brigade.
Landing on the small yellow sensor gives no points at all. And that is the objective. The greater the distance from the sensor the jumper lands, the more penalty points scored. The parachute jumper must also be quick on his toes when landing. Too much speed, and the touchdown will be indistinct.
The location is one of the many military areas surrounding Hyderbad, a city of six million in southern India. It is surrounded by extensive brigades with soldiers’ barracks, family barracks and officers mess halls plus training facilities. “Trained to win,” is the slogan displayed to Indian recruits on wall-sized posters at the Artillery Centre, where the Swedish pentathlon participants were sweating on the obstacle course.
Magical cross-country course
“The cross-country race this morning was magical. First we ran through a jungle section with peacocks. The course wound down towards an old fort. Then we entered an Indian training camp,” says Mia Strömberg, a trainer at the military college in Halmstad.
“I hardly noticed it at all when I was competing, so I want to take time to see it while we are training,” adds Mia.
For the pentathlon contestants, the games began with shooting. The remaining disciplines followed the next day: obstacle course, hand grenade throwing, obstacle swimming and cross-country running.
60 Swedish participants
The games, which were held for the fourth time under the motto “Peace through sports,” are the closest thing to the Olympic Games. The organization is huge. Hyderbad was awash in flags displaying the colours of the games, and there were two officials for each of the 6,000 participants. Secure transports were organized with a coordination officer and a security officer on each vehicle. Traffic was thick with rickshaws and motorbikes racing through the queues.
Amidst this colourful setting, the Swedes remained calm. Some of the members of the 60-strong group had stomach problems. Otherwise, it was the 35-degree temperatures that took time to get used to.
“I always find it difficult to get used to the temperature when I compete,” says pentathlon contestant Nicklas Fredriksson, who was participating in his last championship. His teammate from the helicopter wing agreed.
“After last summer in Sweden, we are not at all accustomed to the heat,” he says with a smile. Nicklas is a part of the FM elite and works half time in the helicopter wing. The rest of his time is devoted to training and competition.
In India, he was not only accompanied by his fellow pentathlon contestants, but also national teams in swimming, sailing, triathlon, shooting and the parachute jumping described above.
Many to the finals
One of the most well-known participants was Christina Bengtsson in rifle shooting. Another well-know contestant was Håkan Sjöberg in pistol shooting.
“I did special heat training prior to the games,” says Håkan. “I spent two hours in a sauna to make my hands swell. Then I held the pistol to see where it pinched.”
Together with swimmer Maria Winell from P7, Håkan was one of those who reached the finals in his discipline. Maria made it to two finals, finishing eighth in each.
Håkan’s result was a respectable 20th place and a personal record of 579 points. Other shooters making it to the finals were Mikael Olofsson and Åke Stenlund.
The next Military World Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2011. Wing Commander Bengt Axelsson hopes that a special swimming initiative will take form.
“I hope that we can retain the strong team of young conscripts that we have now. We need to work towards 2011. If we have a common goal, we can increase our chances of succeeding without bringing in civilian professionals, as some countries have done,” says Bengt.
How did it go for the rest of the parachuting team after Adam Stålsmeden’s precision jump? Very well. His result was repeated by the experienced jumpers Henrik Eriksson and Mårten Nordlander.
“It really went better than expected. Our goal was to reach the semi-finals. We have actually trained more for formation jumping, so this success was a real bonus,” concludes Steffen Hansen.
Military World Games: Sweden participates in shooting, military pentathlon, swimming, parachuting, sailing and triathlon. The games were held for the fourth time. The next games will be in Brazil in 2011.
The objective is the same as for the civilian Olympic Games, namely to get nations that otherwise are in conflict to meet and compete on friendly terms. The difference is that the participants are soldiers. All the Swedes belong to the Armed Forces through military units, schools or the Home Guard.
Text & Photo: Carina Wrangberth