She’s a five foot 4 inch force to be reckoned with. She’s a tandem instructor, AFF instructor, free flyer and a mega badass canopy pilot – we are stoked to introduce CYPRES athlete, Cornelia Mihai!
when she was in high school when she heard about parachuting courses, and simply thought, “why not?” At that time, courses were free if you were between the ages of 16 and 22 years old. “I did the static line progression – a very long one,” Cornelia remembered. “We weren’t jumping much but I did spend a lot of time at the dropzone cleaning, hanging out and just learning anything I could. It was this time that I fell in love with the community and before I knew it a few years had passed and I realized that skydiving had become a very important part of my life.”
Cornelia describes herself as a pretty normal child for the time. She loved playing outside, climbing trees and just running around. She wasn’t the type of girl who played with dolls, she was the girl more interested in activities. “My parents couldn’t afford to take me to different activities, sports or classes, so the moment I was old enough to go by myself, I would always find a way to participate,” she recalled.
There was a time in Cornelia’s life when she was in university, that she held several different short term jobs and one of them was an office job. “I realized in those two weeks that an office job is definitely not for me!” she laughed. It isn’t a surprise to her that she chose skydiving as her path. “I want to have a job that I’m passionate about,” she says, “and as long as I like what I’m doing, then I knew it wouldn’t feel like a burden.”
Cornelia, originally from Romania, got her skydiving start at the Regional Air Club near where she grew up in, Ploiești. “The courses were free,” she began, “because it was a selection for the national accuracy team. I know it’s hard to believe that such courses exist, but it’s quite common.” She went on to say, “The courses began in February and before we even jumped, we did a lot of theory and physical training. By the time August rolled around – which felt like a very long time for my first jump – I wasn’t even nervous. I just wanted to get it done because two of my high school friends had already jumped.”
by being impressed with the silence once the parachute opened and she was away from the plane. “It felt comfortable and it was beautiful,” she explained. “I was definitely way more nervous on my second jump and I was afraid to look down and spot until I had about 50 jumps and two years in the sport! I think I hid my nervousness pretty well though!” Cornelia depicted herself as an average skydiving student but also the hard working and stubborn one! “I don’t think I changed much,” she added.
When thinking back on her beginning, she said that she didn’t have any particular mentors along the way, but she did say, “I’ll never forget my instructor from the club, Ms. Maria Ionescu. She trusted me as a student and pushed me when I needed to be pushed.” And now, Cornelia looks back beaming at her canopy piloting career.
“Since I started competing in 2011, I managed to be on the podium quite a few times. I am very proud to have earned the Bronze Medal Overall at the World Championships (2014 in Zephyrhills, FL) because it was the first time a woman got a medal at an FAI Canopy Piloting competition. I also became a World Champion in the Distance discipline in 2015 and I won the USPA National Championships (as a guest competitor) in 2016.” She continued, “For me, the US Nationals is as hard as a World Meet and the one in 2016 meant a lot because my dad passed away right after the competition was finished. So I dedicated it to him.”
When asked what it was that drew her to the Canopy Piloting discipline of skydiving, she simply replied, “I think canopy piloting chose me,” and she unveiled that she had always loved competition. “I competed a few times in Classic Accuracy while I was still in Romania and I enjoyed the feeling of being complete focus that competition gives me.” Cornelia was hungry for more competition, in any discipline and at the third Dubai International Parachuting Championships in 2011, she realized her opportunity to move forward in an individual discipline was Accuracy or Canopy Piloting.
“I didn’t have any expectations at that meet. I was flying an old Velocity 84 and I didn’t come in last and learned a ton.” she said. It was then that cemented another reason for the love of sport – the community. “I was so impressed with how the competitors were helping each other and warning each other of conditions, even though they were competing against each other. Canopy Piloting is so dangerous and hard that it manages to bring people together through mutual respect for all the hard work that we all put in.”
Cornelia has now put in nine years of competition (and still going), and she still feels that inspiration, and that hunger to compete. “Competition makes me better and it’s not even about winning, although winning feels pretty damn good!” she says. “For me, it’s about the battle, about every round having to be the best. And it’s about the last jump of competition, especially if the scores are tight, that you just have to send it! I love that feeling!”
Cornelia has completely dedicated her life and her career to skydiving and rarely spends time off the dropzone. “I work five days a week in the sport and train in Canopy Piloting on my two days off. I use my holidays to go to competitions, and once in a blue moon, I like to fly in the tunnel, speed fly and… just chill.” she stated.
It is rare you find someone so incredibly dedicated for such a long time who still has the fire in their eyes and the passion in their heart. Cornelia’s next big goal is to become the next World Champion Overall in Canopy Piloting. “I’ve been 2nd and 3rd quite a few times, but not first. So I’ve been chasing it for a few years now. I also want to be a part of the next Vertical World Record and Project 19. I still like to learn and focus on new things like wingsuiting and dynamic flying in the tunnel, I also have this dream of being able to do a Blindman Switchblade -ish freestyle move to show my partner in crime that I can!”
We are beaming to have such a force of nature to represent on the CYPRES team. She is incredibly talented, determined and inspiring to everyone and the future generations in skydiving. If you want to know more about Cornelia, you can follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/cornelia.mihai.3