Greenwich skydiver soars to new heights on collegiate team
GREENWICH — The idea of jumping out of a plane even once would be pretty daunting to most people. Doing it 700 times and winning gold medals for it would be unfathomable. For Greenwich High graduate Andrew Yin, it’s become almost second nature.
“I would even call free-falling relaxing at this point,” said Yin, 22, a senior at the University of Connecticut.
Yin recently won a gold medal with his team, CT True Blue, in the advanced four-way formation skydiving event at the 2018 U.S. Parachute Association’s National Collegiate Parachuting Championships.
The championship event was held in late December at Skydive Arizona, south of Phoenix, and is the oldest and biggest collegiate skydiving event in the world. A total of 13 students from UConn competed in four different skydiving disciplines at the championships.
It was the UConn Skydiving Club that first got Yin into the sport in 2015 when he was 18 years old. He had heard that they performed tandem skydiving jumps, but he was surprised that they were also a competitive team that took part in national events.
“They showed me there was so much more to the sport than just the tandem skydiving I knew about,” said Yin, who is now president of the club.
What really attracted him was the team jumps like the four-way formation skydiving that his team competed in at the USPA collegiate championships. In that event, teams of four jump out of a plane and have to get into a set list of formations within a certain amount of time before pulling their parachutes. The formations are given to the team at the competitions. A videographer is sent with the team to film the jump, and then judges on the ground examine the video to see how well the team did.
Though the team does not know in advance which formations they will perform, they practice and train by jumping nearly every weekend, learning each other’s movement and building up speed and control. The team trains at Connecticut Parachutists Inc. in Ellington.
Yin won gold in the four-way formation event alongside Rhianna Sullivan, William Howard and Christie Kosecki. The UConn team overcame some last-minute changes, said Yin, who was originally not slated to be on the CT True Blue team at the collegiate competition. But he filled in for another teammate who was injured. (Yin had originally opted not to be on the team because he was competing for a different national competition, and did not want to split his focus.)
The UConn delegation joined 73 collegiate skydivers from around the country for the USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships. The UConn team members were the only gold medalists at the event that did not come from a military academy.
In addition to the four-way formation event, Yin also competed in an individual event: sport accuracy. He compared it to “human darts” where jumpers aim for a small target in the center of a circle and try to get as close to it as they can. But he said he prefers the team jumping.
“I like the speed of it and working with your teammates, figuring out not only how to do it, but doing it exactly right,” Yin said.
Yin, who described himself as pretty adventurous, also enjoys skiing and climbing.
“On that first jump, sitting on the plane, I was definitely nervous on the ride up,” he said. “But once I did that first one, I was there every weekend.”
Despite how scary it might seem, he said the sport is actually very safe. There are devices in the jumpers’ ears that help them know when to pull their parachutes, and there are backup parachutes in case there is a malfunction.
“You’re more focused on doing the jump right than any dangers of the jump itself, and it’s not that dangerous,” Yin said. “It’s usually someone doing something out of their league or something that’s intentionally dangerous where someone gets hurt.”
Yin is a mechanical engineering major, and he said that there are a surprising amount of engineering students in the Skydiving Club.
“I think it’s because we trust in the gear we’re using, and we understand how it works.”
Once he graduates this spring, he hopes to find a team to compete in the USPA National Competition. He said it’s also common for UConn alumni to come back and jump with the students, something he definitely plans on doing.
“What keeps bringing me back is the community. I love the people I jump with and we all love the sport in different ways,” he said. “I plan on never stopping.”