Hose pilot soars to world gliding crown

Russell Cheetham added his maiden world title to two European gold medals EMN-170124-105952002
Russell Cheetham added his maiden world title to two European gold medals EMN-170124-105952002
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Vale of Belvoir pilot Russell Cheetham, was on top of the world after winning gold after a tense finale to the FAI Gliding World Championships.

Cheetham, from Hose, added a world title to his two previous European Championship victories after a dramatic final day of competition in Australia.

the 55-year-old took the gold in the open class, scraping ahead of defending world champion Michael Sommer, from Germany, by a mere 13 points out of a total of 6,562.

The achievement made up for the agony of near-misses on his last two attempts at winning a maiden world medal.

“It’s my first FAI World Championship medal of any colour, so I’m unbelievably pleased,” he said.

“It’s something that I have planned to do for my whole career. The last two world championships I was fourth which was very disappointing, so to go one better and go straight to the gold, I’m really happy.”

Cheetham, who had previously won European gold in 2004 and 2009, was flying alongside team-mate Andrew Davis, who won the bronze.

“It was unbelievably close and I have really have to thank Andy my team-mate,” he added. “He has been brilliant the whole time.

“When we come to these events we come together and fly as a team.

“This is our second championship flying together and the result proves that it works.”

Cheetham, a member of The Soaring Centre Gliding Club at Husbands Bosworth, and Davis went into the final day’s race having held first and second place since midway through the fortnight-long competition.

Both pilots flew extremely consistently throughout the marathon competition, where the daily courses ranged from about 200km to more than 750km, with both Cheetham and Davis finishing in the top 10 in all but one race.

The leading pilots all gambled on a late start in the final round to take advantage of the best conditions, but the strategy backfired, allowing many of the early starters to creep up the overall standings.

But despite only managing 19th place in the final 302km race, Cheetham’s earlier lead was sufficient so see him hold onto the gold medal.

“The flight was really tricky,” he said. “We knew we were starting too late, but we thought it was important we flew in the same time window as the German pilots who were the only ones who could take our medals away from us.

“I didn’t know at the time if I had enough points because I knew Michael had started two or three minutes behind and he spent the whole flight slowly catching up.

“He got into our gaggle so he gained the two or three minutes he maybe needed, but it turned out that he needed four minutes and it wasn’t enough.”