16-Year-Old Kyra Poh Is an Indoor Skydiving World Champion
Deliberate, graceful, strong, balanced. Kyra Poh's distinct style of indoor skydiving is the product of immense dedication and hundreds of hours of body flight—over 300 hours across eight years. At 16 years old, the Singaporean national has been flying in wind tunnels for half of her life. Kyra is a world champion indoor skydiver, with an impressive list of gold medals from international competitions held all over the world. In February 2018 she successfully defended her freestyle gold medal at the 2018 Wind Games in Girona, Spain with an incredibly powerful routine set to Sofi Tukker's "Awoo.” In between busy training and competition schedules, Kyra was gracious enough to spend some time sharing her thoughts about her journey thus far. [Watch Kyra's winning routine below. I'm not crying, you're crying.]
On what inspires her and her creative process, Kyra shares:
KYRA: I get my inspiration from all sorts of things. Sometimes it happens all of a sudden: I would be doing my work or going to sleep and a vision would pop up in my mind! Or I would watch ice skating videos and dance. I usually think of new moves, then with the help of my mum we would compose a new routine together!
To make it all happen, Kyra's training schedule is demanding. She trains twice a day with mornings reserved for 2-way dynamic sessions and evenings set aside for solo freestyle—that’s a total of 5-7 tunnel hours per week. Tunnel flying is a full body workout with a physical intensity matched only by the concentration and precision required to safely execute, in Kyra’s case, dynamic moves like carving, layouts, and smooth transitions while flying in wind speeds up to 143 mph solo, or with three other people. The end result is a unique combination of art and sport celebrated at annual tournaments in Spain, Bahrain, Australia etc. where the best flyers in the world compete in team and individual events. Earlier this year, Kyra flew to Madrid to team up with professional flyers Inka Tiitto (28 years old), and Coralie Boudreault (14 years old) on a first-of-its-kind project for the Modern Aerial Dance Company. Their performance, called Legend Of The Light, brings together a stunning combination of freestyle flying, lyrical dance, and lighting. Here’s Kyra’s take on the experience:
KYRA: OMG Yes!!!! I went to Madrid in July and we did an amazing project! It's the first time a trio routine has been done before. Our routine was very special, as we had sensors on our bodies so when we moved, the projections would appear following our movements.
[Watch Legend Of The Light below.]
This summer, Kyra and her teammate Choo Yi Xuan traveled to Voss, Norway to work towards their skydiving license. Afterwards, Kyra gifted the Internet with beautiful, jaw-dropping footage that has caused the rest of us to permanently delete video evidence of our own fumbling awkward first jumps. Kyra represents a new generation of skydivers who have perfected their techniques in wind tunnels before taking to the skies—should they choose to do so; this new generation doesn’t necessarily need outdoor skydiving, having shaped indoor skydiving into a sport that is already campaigning to be a part of the 2024 Olympics.
After stunning the world with quite possibly the most advanced beginner skydiver footage ever, Kyra fractured her rib on her 16th jump. This temporarily put a halt to her outdoor skydiving career, but she looks forward to getting back in the sky. As for goals? After her A-license, Kyra says she wants to jump more and even compete one day. For now, she’ll be defending world titles at the 3rd FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving (WCIS) in Bahrain in October and preparing for the Wind Games in 2019.
Kyra's projects and accomplishments in the world of human flight speak for themselves. Tunnel flying at this level can be demanding, physically, mentally, and emotionally. What keeps Kyra motivated when things get tough is heartfelt: she flies for her late grandfather and for her love of the sport.
KYRA: My grandfather passed away last year and he was my biggest fan. I know wherever he is now, I would like to continue to make him proud. I also fly for myself, as it is my passion and no achievements come without some pain and hard work.
Tunnel flying has brought her closer with her longtime friend and teammate Choo Yi Xuan too. The duo first started flying together eight years ago as Team Firefly Singapore. That’s a lot of time to spend with another person in a 16.5 foot-diameter glass tunnel! Over the years they’ve trained and competed together all over the world. We asked Kyra how their friendship has evolved over time:
KYRA: We were friends since the start and I feel we’ve gotten to a new level of friendship. We understand each other better and working as a team is easier. And it’s more fun of course!
If she could make a skydive with anyone in the world, Kyra says it would have to be with Yi Xuan.
To the aspiring tunnel flyers and young athletes forging their own paths, Kyra encourages:
KYRA: Don't give up! Of course it will be tough and you might feel that it is not fun at times, but push a little more. You will improve and reach your goals!
Thank you, Kyra! You inspire us all.