As a member of the first-ever all-female 4-Way Dynamic Indoor Skydiving team, Gianna Keuer, 15, of Barrington, will represent Team USA at the 2022 World Cup competition April 5-10 in Belgium. Gianna and teammates Kiana Adamson, 15, of Colorado; Bella Capra, 13, of Oregon; and Jill Knutson, 16, of New York; won a silver medal at the 2021 U.S. Indoor Skydiving Nationals in El Paso, Texas, qualifying them for a spot in the world championship event. Team Volare, as they’re known, defeated a variety of competitors, including adult male teams, enroute to their silver medal win.
Gianna is a sophomore at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls college-prep day-and-boarding high school in Lake Forest. “One goal of my team is to inspire girls to work hard and follow their dreams, and I believe that my experience at Woodlands has helped me learn to do just that,” she says. “The school’s environment pushes me to work hard and set ambitious goals for myself. Being in an all-girls school has helped me build self-confidence in a community where I feel welcome and accepted. This confidence has enabled me to accomplish so much more than I could have imagined.”
Gianna discovered indoor skydiving at age 10. It was during a school field trip to iFly Naperville, where she currently trains, to learn about the physics of wind movement, which is indoor skydiving’s driving force. Participants wear a tight flight suit and helmet as they maneuver through winds that can approach 160 miles per hour inside a vertical tunnel 14 feet wide. They spin, flip end over end and soar into the air before plummeting face-first toward the floor, all the while trying to avoid contact with the wind tunnel’s glass wall.
When competing in the 4-Way Dynamic event, Gianna and her three teammates zip through a series of three-dimensional patterns in a tight formation. Winners can be separated by fractions of a second in this event where veering outside a pattern or touching the wall results in a 5-second penalty.
"It's a bit scary to be moving toward the glass when you are facing it," Gianna says. "You have to know where you are going. You get a feel for it." While having hit the glass wall a few times during practice, she’s suffered nothing more than a bump or bruise. In addition to her weekly training at iFly in Naperville, Gianna participates in some more intense sessions with her teammates at facilities in Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Florida.
Gianna says she’s truly been inspired by her mother, Courtney Desmond, who has made more than 200 jumps from airplanes. While Gianna hasn’t done that kind of skydiving yet because she’s too young, it’s something she really wants to do after turning 18. Gianna envisions the experience as something similar to the free-fall part of what she’s doing now.
And what she’s doing now could be destined for much greater recognition worldwide. The sport of indoor skydiving has been gaining popularity in recent years and is being promoted as a future Olympic event. Gianna would like to see that happen.