Competitions are a staple for many sports, and in nearly all of them men and women compete separately. There are serious, and unarguable differences in men’s, and women’s bodies, so to a certain extent this does make sense. Surrounding this separation of the sexes is a stigma that women simply cannot perform to the same standard as men can. This year’s Air Wipp competition, with some of the young women throwing as difficult, or even more difficult moves then the men's comp, was a huge step forward as proof that women can perform to an incredibly high standard, and no one should assume anything different.
It seems there aren’t many parkour competitions that have showed constant improvement. However the Air Wipp Challenge is making progressive moves forward. If you aren’t familiar with the name Air Wipp, the history of the brand started with the founders, Marcus Gustafsson and Filip Ljungberg. Before having a space of their own, Marcus and Filip decided to host their own parkour competition in 2012, sponsored by Betsafe called the Air Wipp Challenge. This gave athletes another platform to perform at the highest level possible. The competition went on for another consecutive year in 2013, followed by a year long hiatus. It returned with the current format and venue you see today called Helsingborg Arena.
The format of the competition is a 90 second freestyle run throughout the course, where the athletes run throughs are scored based on four criteria: flow, difficulty, execution and creativity. Flow is how efficient and smoothly an athlete can link their movements together during a run. Difficulty is how hard the movements are that they are performing. Execution is how clean and aesthetically pleasing the athletes movements are within their run, and finally creativity is how original the athlete is, in the moves they choose to use and where along the course they execute those movements. This years athletes that podiumed go as followed: 1st place Dimitris Kyrsanidis, 2nd place Joey Adrian, and 3rd place Erik Mukhametshin. However, the real surprise came from the winner of the women’s division. 3rd place finisher Lilou Ruel, 2nd place finisher Sydney Olson, and the youngest competitor there, 13 year old Elise Bickley taking home the 1st place podium.
Who is Elise Bickley? Aside from being a 13 year old who can throwdown bigger than most adults… She is a member of Team Katalyst, which is a sports facility located in the UK. In her run, she executed 2 fairly difficult tricks that any seasoned practitioner would have trouble performing. One of the moves was a double flyaway, which is a double backflip dismount performed while swinging on a bar, releasing right as you approach the highest point of the front of the swing. The second move is called a roll bomb, which is a front flip that is performed immediately after rolling off of a ledge that is tall enough for one to perform a full rotation. Although her big trick execution was on point, her run was very much lackluster on her flow and creativity. Elise successfully proved what the women in our community have been fighting for. Woman just want to be seen for the athletes they are, and their actual accomplishments, not just portrayed as a trope. All the competitors in the women's division did an amazing job and definitely set a high bar, but Elise, and the other podium athletes went out, and threw moves that were equal to the men’s skill levels that are attempted in these competitions. By doing this she not only pushed the women to be better athletes, but also showed the world how much potential women really have.
The line ‘That’s great for a woman!’ is heard way too often, and it promotes a sexist view of how women can perform compared to men. Since parkour is a male dominated sport, men tend to “mansplain”, or speak in an overtly condescending fashion towards women in regard to parkour movements. Women are often held back by coaches or community members that hold them to a lower standard than men in the same movements. In competitions, or world showings, like Air Wipp, we can see that despite this disadvantage women still perform as amazing athletes. Elise Bickley was the youngest competitor in Air Wipp, and took gold in an all ages division.
If you haven’t seen any of the videos from the event I highly recommend going on Youtube and watching it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvZeB8KO3sA&t=3537s ), especially the women's competition. The women at Air Wipp this year brought some seriously amazing movement, and this was (in our opinion) the best showing from women at a competition. Next time you see a woman jumping, before you speak, think about whether what you’re about to say is helpful to the growth of the mixed gender Parkour community as a whole.
Best, PPK Philly