Gliding 'Olympics' take place in Uvalde

World Gliding Cham­pionship draws in gliders from across the world

UVALDE, Texas - In Uvalde, it is hot, dusty, and for some, it is heaven.

"The same sort of weather that makes everyone miserable, we love,” said Glider Pilot Ron Tabery, of Team USA.

For over a week now, Uvalde has hosted the “other Olympics," otherwise known as the World Gliding Championship.

As it were, hot, dusty, and desolate are ideal conditions for gliders, or sailplanes, leaving few at this competition jealous of their athletic counterparts in the United Kingdom.

"Downtown London is a lousy place for a glider race. It’s probably raining there right now,” joked Tabery.

Gliders are soaring machines that rely on nothing more than the power of the sun, terrain and weather to stay aloft.

Airplanes tow them into the sky up to a certain altitude, before Mother Nature takes over.

The pilots ride columns of rising air called thermals, which are created by strong heating at the ground. Pilots then traverse those thermals traveling hundreds of miles, often at speeds over 90 mph.

The winner of the competition and the gold medal is the fastest glider during a series of courses that are set up each day.

This year’s competition is hosting 32 countries and 120 pilots total. Each country hopes to bring home a medal.

"Team Australia's doing very well overall at this stage. We've got a number of pilots placed in the top 10,” said David Jansen, a pilot of Team Australia.

Meanwhile, the Austrian team, who practices their gliding in the Alps, had little fear, despite the danger that can come along with the sport.

"No, it’s not scary at all. It’s big fun, you know,” said Austrian pilot Peter Hartmann.

Many of the pilots also hoped that gliding or soaring would one day become recognized as an Olympic sport, but admitted it must first become more a spectator sport.

The United States is hosting the World Gliding Championship for only the fourth time, with Uvalde hosting the event for the second time. Marfa, Texas, and Hobbs, N.M., were the other two sites previously selected.

The competition continues through Aug. 19 and it is open to the public.

To view a list of recent stories Justine Horne has done, click here.



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