Bir Billing, October 30: Swiss pilot, Michael Kuffer finished a close second in the final Task on Saturday but emerged as the overall champion of the AAI Paragliding World Cup here in Bir Billing. The 26-year-old Kuffer finished a mere 14 seconds behind Mexican Manuel Quintanilla but his steady performances in the earlier tasks ensured the overall honours.
The women’s overall crown was claimed by Japan’s Yuki Sato. Sato was second in the final task, which was won by the legendary Polish pilot Klaudia Bulgakow.
It was Kuffer’s first World Cup win and the young pilot from the German-speaking area in Switzerland was overjoyed with his success. His best finish in a World Cup prior to this win was a third place finish in his home country Switzerland, as he was third at Dissentis World Cup earlier this year.
Enroute to his win in the AAI Paragliding World Cup, he beat the in-form Xevi Bonet of Spain, legendary French pilots, Julien Wirtz and Maxime Pinot, both former World Number 1s, and Slovenia’s Jurij Vidic, another former World No. 1.
Kuffer did not win each of the Tasks. He was ninth in Task 1, second in Task 2, 28th in Task 3 and 16th in Task 4 and capped it with a second place in Task 5.
The prizes, which included a customised 18-inch Winged Trophy, was presented to the winners by Mr. Sudhir Sharma, Minister of Urban Development and Town Country Planning and President of the Billing Paragliding Association.Also present at the Closing ceremony and the prize distribution were Mr. R K Srivastava, Chairman of the Airport Authority of India and Mr. Rajesh Srivastava, Senior Vice President of BPA.
Speaking about his win, Kuffer said, “I am overjoyed and I am going to celebrate this success with a relaxed week and I am going to see some more places around.”
Kuffer, who divides his time between studying Business Administration and taking tourists on Tandem flights in Interlaken, Switzerland added, “I have loved India, its food and the people. Bir Billing is a magnificent place and it just the kind of a place a Para gliding pilot would dream about,” said Kuffer, who was lying second overall after the penultimate task on Friday, completed his final task of 75.33 k in two hours, 29 minutes 42 seconds, which was just 14 seconds after Quintanilla touched down in 2:29:28. The Mexican, however was ninth overall.
Xevi Bonet Dalmau of Spain, who was the overall leader till Friday evening, ultimately ended second, while former World No. 1 and legendary Frenchman Julien Wirtz, who was fourth in the final task was third overall.
Another Frenchman Maxime Pinot and Slovenia’s Jurij Vidic ended fourth and fifth overall. Pinot was third in the final task and Vidic was sixth.
Among the Indians, Ajay Kumar was the best in 31st place overall, while Gurpreet Dhindsa was 63rd and Arvind Paul 70th.
The weather on the final day was clear and quite warm at times giving the pilots a good chance for a final shot at the AAI Paragliding World Cup. Task 5 on the final day of the weeklong AAI Paragliding World Cup was set a distance of 75.33 km and it ended just as the clouds began threatening to engulf the sun over Bir Billing, which till then had been bright and warm.
Brief profile of Michael Kuffer
Michael Kuffer, born on September 21, 1989, was ranked inside the Top-10 of the world around this time last year. He came into the competition at No. 33 bit this win will now enable him to make a bid to get back into the elite zone.
After finishing second in the Swiss Cup and fourth in British Open in 2011, he won the Swiss Cup the following year and logged his first Top-10 with a sixth place at the 2012 World Cup in Macedonia. In 2013 he was 13th at the World Cup in France and last year was a breakthrough of sorts with second place at the Pre-World Cup in Dissentis, Switzerland and fourth at the World Cup in Mexico. This year Kuffer third at the World Cup in Dissentis.
The young Swiss pilot, who turned 26 in September, continues to straddles his degree in Business Administration with Paragliding. In his free time he also works as a Tandem Pilot in Switzerland and got into serious flying only in 2006 and made his debut at an international event in 2009.
Like most Pilots in paragliding, he loves other adventures sports like skiing, hiking, climbing and sailing.
- Michael Küffer (SWITZ) 3266 points
- Xevi Bonet Dalmau (SPAIN) 3257
- Julien Wirtz (FRA) 3254
- Maxime Pinot (FRA) 3245
- Jurij Vidic (SLOVENIA) 3222
MEN – TASK 5
- Manuel Quintanilla (Mex) 1000 points
- Michael Küffer (SWITZ) 985
- Maxime Pinot (FRA) 977
- Julien Wirtz (FRA) 974
- Jurij Vidic (SVN) 973
- Ajay Kumar 2703 points
- Gurpreet Dhindsa 2223
- Arvind Paul 2169
- Yuki Sato (JPN) 2425 points
- Petra Slivova (CZE) 2173
- Yael Margelisch (CHE) 1907
Women Task 5
- Klaudia Bulgakow (POL) 522 points
- Yuki Sato (JPN) 519
- Petra Slivova (CZE) 518
- United Kingdom
Winners of the each Tasks:
Task 1: 97.6 km; Winner: Maxime Pinot (FRA)
Task 2: 74.7 km Winner: Xevi Bonet Dalmau (ESP)
Task 3: 96.3 km Winner: Julien Wirtz (FRA)
Task 4: 93.8 km Winner: Julien Brung (FRA)
Task 5: 75.2 km Winner: Manuel Quintanilla (Mexico)
Note: There were no Tasks on Day 1 and Day 2, because of inclement weather and Task 4 was curtailed from the original 93.8 km and was called off with the leader having covered just over 34 km.
About Billing Paragliding Association
The Billing Paragliding Association formed in 2006 had successfully organised the Pre-World Cup of Paragliding at the same venue in 2013 to test the waters with extremely encouraging results and great response, which paved the way for the World Cup to be brought here.
The BPA is the only organization recognised by Aero Club of India, which in turn is the only body recognised by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the governing world body for air sports, and the Paragliding World Cup Association (PWCA). The FAI was formed in 1905.
As a competitive sport, Paragliding has already featured in some Games like the South-East Asian Games and the Asian Beach Games. Paragliding was also short-listed in the initial list of new events for the 2020 Olympics, but will now be considered for the 2024 Olympic Games.
About Bir Billing
Bir Billing is considered the second best paragliding spot in the world and steps have been taken to develop infrastructure of international standards for the championship. The take-off and landing areas are being completely redone, and state-of-the-art facilities are being built for the paragliders, officials and spectators alike.
About Airports Authority of India
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is the Title Sponsors and will actively promote the sport and the event through various avenues and platforms to be announced soon. The AAI has also taken up the task of promoting Adventure Sports and help build an additional avenue for Tourism.
About 130 of the best paragliders, including those in World’s Top-5, from over 40 countries are set to participate in the championship, which will put India firmly on the global paragliding map.
During the week-long tournament, the edge of competitive sport during the day will give way for some fun and frolic in the evenings, with specially-themed programmes being planned for each evening. The gala opening and the closing ceremonies promise to be extravaganzas, adding their own colour to the World Cup.