Waiting for the task briefing to start today, I had a chance to speak with Petr Benes from the Czech Republic. The Czech team did very well in the European Championships in Krushevo last summer, but they seem to have come blazing out of nowhere here in Brasilia. They are currently in second place in the team competition, just 335 points behind the Italians. In the individual scores, Petr is just 6 points behind Alex Ploner in first going into the final day of the comp. The top five positions are actually so compressed on the final day that it’s going to make for a really exciting finish.
Petr is an interesting, quiet guy and this is the first time I’ve every really spoken with him. I tried to get a video interview for the FAI CIVL Facebook page, but he did little more than flash a shy smile and shrug his shoulders. So, I thought I would just sit down with him and ask about life in general to try to coax him into talking about the competition here. Turns out he is an artistic blacksmith doing restoration work in prestigious places/buildings in Prague. Compared to many here, he’s a relatively new hang glider pilot, having learned just about 13 years ago starting out in sailplanes at age 17 (reminds me of a certain American world record holder). Petr went on to tell me why he thought the Czech team was so successful. He explained that conditions in the Czech Republic are very rarely strong or consistent. So, from the very start of their flying careers, they must learn to stay up in the most difficult conditions, rarely getting all that high above the terrain. That makes sense - the Austrians have historically been a very strong team, with Austrians having similar difficult conditions much of the time.
It’s going to be fun to be in the Esplanade watching them come in today. With only 66 points separating the top four pilots, the gold is there for any one of them to take. I guess the question is whether Alex and Christian will race against each other and risk losing the team gold for the Italians. I spoke with Flavio on launch just a while ago and he’s one nervous team leader.
Best of luck to the Italians and the Czechs, and even better luck to team USA who are just 8 points out of third place with only today to steal the bronze medal from those pesky Germans!