As Sydney Kennett steps into the wind tunnel, she adjusts her helmet, reaches her arms out and begins to tip forward. As the wind reaches 50, 60, then 70 mph, she leans in further until finally, it lifts her off the ground.
Before long, the wind is at 120 mph and Sydney is flying through the air, flipping upside down and twisting as she adjusts to the space.
Sydney, a 15-year-old professional indoor skydiver from Parker, is training for the world cup in her sport, which will take place April 5 through April 10 in Belgium. It’s only the fourth ever world competition for the relatively new sport, and already, it’s Sydney’s second time attending as a junior.
“It’s kind of like gymnastics in the air,” Sydney said from the iFly indoor skydiving facility in Lone Tree March 21.
During her routines, Sydney does flips, splits, twists, stationary poses and more inside tunnels that usually span about 12 feet wide and 45 feet high.
“Some people have called her a hummingbird,” said Michelle Kennett, Sydney’s mom. “Because of how finely detailed she is and how she can fly so close to the wall but not hit it.”
While the sport includes multiple disciplines, Sydney mostly competes in the freestyle division, where she’s required to complete both free routines, where she decides on her own tricks, and compulsory routines, where she’s required to incorporate certain moves. The free routines last about a minute and 30 seconds and the compulsory routines are about 45 seconds.
She gets two scores for her routine: one based on the difficulty and the other on how well she executes the moves. Points for each trick are not yet standardized, so judges choose subjective scores.
“Sydney usually has one of the hardest difficulty routines,” Michelle said.
Leading up to a competition, Sydney practices about four hours per week inside the tunnel. The work isn’t finished when she’s out of the wind however, she also works on flexibility and weight training. In the past, she’s also taken contortion classes to improve her routines.
Her mom and dad are coaches and the three of them choreograph her routines together.
“Usually we will just like sit down at the dinner table and talk about it,” she said “We gather my moves together and then talk about how they could flow together.”
When Sydney was 4-years-old, her dad — a longtime skydiver — wanted her and her sister to try it out. With age restrictions on skydiving stopping them from actually jumping out of a plane, they ended up at the iFly in Lone Tree.
Four years later, she joined the kids club there and started practicing. About a year after that, she went to her first competition in Chicago.
“It kind of just took off from there,” she said.
At first, it was a cardio workout, but before long it became more of a mental exercise as she focused on the isolated movements required for her tricks.
Now, Sydney is sponsored by iFly; Cookie, which makes skydiving helmets; and Deem, a skydiving suit manufacturer.
A sophomore at Ponderosa High School, Sydney also recently started pole vaulting for the school’s track team. In some ways, it’s similar to indoor skydiving, she said.
Through social media, Sydney works to introduce more people to the sport of indoor skydiving.
“That’s basically my main goal is just to show people it’s actually a sport and not just an amusement ride,” she said.
At the last world competition in 2019, Sydney competed as the youngest person there as a 12-year-old and received third place. This year she has a different goal.
“I’m hoping to bring back the gold this time,” she said. “That would be really exciting.”
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