(Courtesy USPA/Photo Juan Mayer)

Draper native John Lee has won a gold medal in the intermediate 4-way vertical formation skydiving competition at the 2010 U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships. The competition is taking place at Skydive Chicago, an expansive 220-acre skydiving resort located southwest of Chicago along the banks of the scenic Fox River.

Lee is one of nearly 500 of the country’s finest, fastest, most fearless skydivers competing at the national championships, pushing their aerial skills to the limit and competing for the title of national champion in six spectacular skydiving disciplines: Vertical Formation Skydiving, Lee’s high-flying specialty, Freeflying, Freestyle, Canopy Formation, Freefall Style & Accuracy Landing, and Formation Skydiving.

In vertical formation skydiving, 4-person teams exit the airplane more than two miles above the ground and perform acrobatic maneuvers in freefall on upright and upside-down axes to complete as many pre-designated formations as possible in time.

Lee and his gold-medal team, Rockwell Airtime, perfected their gravity-defying skills against five other teams from across the country. The team trained for the national championships in Ogden, Utah. Lee has made an astounding 2,600-plus skydives.

The 2010 United States Parachute Association (USPA) National Skydiving Championships, the biggest and most thrilling skydiving competition in the country, is continuing through September 24 at Skydive Chicago. The championships are free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

Skydive Like a Pro

For sheer excitement and high-speed fun, no sport comes close to skydiving. Fortunately, this high-flying adrenaline sport is not as extreme or intimidating as it may seem. Just about anyone 18 years of age or older can take to the skies after some comprehensive safety instruction. In fact, all it takes is a half hour of ground school to prepare for a tandem jump, the easiest and most popular way to experience skydiving for the first time. Tandem jumping allows students to experience the thrill of freefall from 13,000 feet while securely harnessed to an experienced, licensed instructor.

Another first-jump method called Accelerated Freefall (AFF) allows students to jump solo right away—with two instructors at their side—after four to five hours of intense ground instruction. Just about anyone can earn a license in as few as 25 jumps!

For more information on skydiving and to find a USPA Group Member skydiving center near you, visit www.uspa.org.