This paragraph was posted by the NSL News during the aftermath of the World Meet 2008 in Maubeuge, France, with the story on August 18, 2008. It still took more than three months until Craig Girard's career story has finally been completed. It is no surprise since there was so much information to be collected, as Craig Girard's career reaches far back in time.
His name has been a synonym for the whole Airspeed project for such a long time now that his career before Airspeed is almost forgotten, even though it began at a time when Airspeed was not even thought of.
Craig "Sarge" Girard was born on 29 July 1965 in Tempe, Arizona. He made his first jump when he was 16 years old. He was in 10th grade and read in a local newspaper that he could learn to skydive for $65. He asked his father, who agreed without much hesitation, and went skydiving the following weekend at Sky-Hi Pioneers in Phoenix, Arizona. It was 14 March 1981 when he began his skydiving career close to the place where he is still - and again - located at the moment.
The Golden Knights experience would change Craig Girard's life. He made the "Gold Demonstration Team" and spent the entire 1987 season doing skydiving demos. Then he tried out for the Formation Skydiving team in November 1987. The Golden Knights 8-way team had just won its first 8-way gold medals at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving in Brazil 1987.
The success with the Golden Knights was mostly based on the 8-way team. Craig Girard won 8-way gold medals at three consecutive World Championships (1989, 1991 and 1993), at the two World Cups in the same time frame (1988 and 1990) and at all USPA Nationals between 1988 and 1994. There was one exception though when he was stationed with the US Army in Egypt for a year. He missed the USPA gold medals and the World Cup in 1992.
Craig Girard's career with the Golden Knights and the athletic success would already be enough for a complete life story. However, it was just the beginning of an even much greater chapter of his skydiving career. Craig Girard was far from being done.
He left the US Army in 1995 and went back to Arizona when Skydive Arizona's owner Larry Hill and the legendary Airspeed 4-way lineup (Jack Jefferies, Dan BC, Mark Kirkby, Kirk Verner) decided to build an Airspeed 8-way team. Craig Girard, already a multiple 8-way world champion, was put in charge of the 8-way project. This was the beginning of an even more impressive time period.
Craig Girard's Airspeed 8-way lineup then traveled to Australia in 1999 and won the first set of 8-way gold medals at the World Championship of Formation Skydiving. The Golden Knights still fought back successfully one more time and won the USPA Nationals 1999 in Sebastian before Airspeed's 8-way team made the golden trip to Australia. However, Craig Girard's 8-way mission in Arizona was already accomplished, and Airspeed has won each 8-way competition at the USPA Nationals ever since Sebastian.
Airspeed Vertical was formed at the end of the 1999 season and consisted of Craig Girard, John Eagle, Mark Kirkby and Neal Houston, with Marc Steinbaugh on camera. This 2000 lineup, with current Airspeed Odyssey members Craig Girard and Mark Kirkby, won already the USPA Nationals 2000 and beat France Maubeuge and DeLand Norgies at the same event.
It was still the most challenging time period that began with his first World Championship 4-way title. The next five years may even be the time period that made Craig Girard the most experienced, popular and mature Formation Skydiving competitor that he is now. The passion and endurance that it took him to keep moving on between 2001 and 2007 toward the current Airspeed Odyssey level is probably unprecedented.
Airspeed's 8-way lineup then lost against the Russian 8-way team at the Mondial 2003. However, this event is still the most special memory for Craig Girard, which might explain why this not so successful time period was probably so crucial for his career. He remembers the 8-way competition with the Russians in Gap as the most memorable event because it was the first time in his entire skydiving career that he was in an 11th round jump-off for gold medals at a World Championship.
It was a good time for this experience since there would be more years to come without winning in the 4-way event. Airspeed Vertical came back from France in 2003, and a new top contender was waiting at the USPA Nationals in Lake Wales. The Golden Knights were tired and burned out after a disappointing 4-way competition and silver medals in France. However, DeLand Majik was fresh and eager to take on Craig Girard's Airspeed Vertical with the same lineup.
Craig Girard did not even have a new serious 4-way lineup at the USPA Nationals 2004, and the testing time period continued. Airspeed won the 8-way competition as usual, but his main focus was on a new and strong 4-way lineup. He finally formed Airspeed Odyssey for the 2005 season, even though it was not yet the current lineup. Airspeed Odyssey 2005 consisted of Craig Girard, Eliana Rodriguez, Andy Delk and Brian Johnson, with Will Pesek on camera.
However, once again nothing could discourage Craig Girard to continue on his path. His new Odyssey 2007 lineup, with Mark Kirkby returning to his Tail slot for Brian Johnson, was finally what he has been looking for. Airspeed Odyssey, with Craig Girard (Center Outside), Andy Delk (Center Inside), Eliana Rodrigues (Point) and Mark Kirkby (Tail) began to set new standards in 4-way Formation Skydiving competition with the start of the 2007 season and have never lost a competition ever since.
Craig Girard's dry 4-way period between 2001 and 2007 never deterred him from trying to become better and challenge himself. Once again, he came out as a winner, even though winning alone is obviously not what keeps him going. His positive attitude and the passion for the sport are the driving factors, and he is still far from being done. Airspeed Odyssey has already made plans for the 2009 season.
There are more exciting fights waiting for Craig Girard - no matter whether he will win them or not. The next one will take place at the FSL Shamrock Showdown 2009, and the French national 4-way team will be the old and new challenger. Count on Craig Girard that his team will be ready for another exciting competition.