Leonid Volkov: The Nureyev of Indoor Skydiving
They call him The Showman – and for good reason. Russia’s Leonid Volkov, 29, has shaken up the indoor skydiving competition scene since first blasting into it five years ago.
Consistently one of the best performers in his chosen discipline of Freestyle, watching Volkov fly is more like watching a dancer perform, or an actor act. His performance starts outside the tunnel, as he adopts the character he has decided to be.
As the music rises he strikes a pose, and then, on cue he dives into the wind tunnel. There then follows a 50-second routine which showcases his strength, agility, precision and artistry. Like a cross between watching Keanu Reeves in the Matrix and Rudolf Nureyev, he leaves the crowd breathless every time.
In person, his personality shines through too. “I am from Rrrrrussia!” he exclaims, rolling his R’s by way of introduction. “We are here at the World Championships of Indoor Skydiving!”
How long has he been indoor skydiving? “Five years”, he replies.
Only five years? It seems a short time to be at the top of the sport.
“Only!” he laughs. “Ok, I am good, but you can achieve these results more quickly than five years. If you train every day for 45 minutes, you will do it quicker.”
How often does he train? “The first two years when I worked at a tunnel I trained not so often. But [when] I started to do Freestyle, I started to train five hours a month in the tunnel.”
He adds: “But I train also in the swimming pool, when I wake up. I can train when I am walking or driving a car.” He moves his body with gymnastic grace to emphasis his point. The flexibility rolls through his arms and upper body. “Every time train.”
The presumption is that Volkov has come into Indoor Skydiving from a different sport, but that is not the case. “I did not have a special sport,” he says. “I love all sports, swimming, different things. I was just eight years in the military. So every day wake up at 6am, running, press-ups, pull-ups, weights.”
Somebody said your girlfriend is a choreographer? “Ah, yes,” he replies, looking to find some diplomatic tact while talking in his second language of English. “Well my last girlfriend was a choreographer and she helped me with everything. Now I have a different girlfriend – and she helps me too!”
Where does he find the inspiration to perform as he does? What makes him so bold, to consider what other don’t? He knows the answer to that. “All my life I was very shy to dance, because ‘men never dance’” he says.
“I was very strong. That is why I went to military, you understand? But when I go into the tunnel, I understood that I liked a different way. So yes, wind tunnel, and many people, help me to open my eyes and realise who I am.”
The 2nd FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships is on 20-22 October 2017 in Laval, Montreal. Follow the action including the Livestream throughout the competition at www.wisc2017.com