Kyra Poh: The 14-year-old girl who's the 'fastest flyer'

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Picture of Singaporean indoor skydiver Kyra PohImage source, IFLY SINGAPORE
Image caption,
Kyra started indoor skydiving when she was just nine years old

Fourteen-year-old indoor skydiver Kyra Poh was crowned the "world's fastest flyer" in one of the sport's biggest competitions, the Wind Games. She tells the BBC's Tessa Wong what it takes to soar to the top.

Riding winds as fast as 230km/h (143mph), Kyra flips and whirls around the arena, a small blur of white spandex in a giant vertical wind tunnel.

In the air the Singaporean teenager makes it all look effortless - a combination of dancing and floating - but in reality it is hard work.

"You use all your muscles for this sport. Even those muscles you never knew existed, they will start to ache. Even your wrists will hurt," she tells the BBC from Spain.

About 200 indoor skydivers competed at the Wind Games held in Catalonia in Spain at the weekend- Kyra was not only among the few females who took part, but also one of the youngest.

Media caption,

A competitor performs in the wind tunnel at the 2017 Games

It was her first time competing against adults in a large-scale competition.

But she easily beat them to win gold medals in the solo speed category, where a routine must be completed in the fastest time possible, and the freestyle category, where competitors are graded on their choreography and the difficulty of their moves.

She says being smaller and lighter than her competitors did not give her an advantage. In fact, she thinks it made things more difficult.

"A lot of people think that if you're lighter, you're faster. I don't think so. Because when you're small, you have less body surface area, so you can push off less wind. If you're taller, you can push off more and have more force," she says.

Kyra won the gold medal in the junior freestyle category at the FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving, held in October last year in Poland.

'I forget I'm flying'

Kyra fell into the sport accidentally. When she was nine her mother, an advertising executive, was hired to create commercials for indoor skydiving facility iFly in Singapore, and they needed a child to appear in their adverts.

"My mum asked me to try it out. I said yes. I really wanted to fly... and it was really exciting.

"When I first jumped in, I was nervous. But now these days when I go in, sometimes I forget I'm flying. The wind is so fast, sometimes when I fly, it feels like something is holding me up instead of me floating," she says.

Kyra practices three times a week after school, and more frequently during competition season. Each session takes hours - flying repeatedly can be gruelling, and she can only fly in short spurts of three minutes before taking a break.

She also regularly does long stretching sessions to improve her flexibility. Unlike most female indoor skydivers, Kyra does not have a gymnastics or dance background.

But she tries to make up for that in other ways.

"Female competitors tend to have a very graceful style and are very flexible. So I try to incorporate that in my routine with powerful, aggressive moves which men use, that are very technical and fast," she says.

Indoor skydiving is a very new sport, but Kyra sees it as her lifelong passion and hopes to be a professional athlete.

"When I was smaller I used to draw pictures of myself flying over Singapore. I even wanted to be an astronaut, to float in zero gravity.

"Humans are not meant to fly, but that has always been my dream. Now I can fly in a tunnel, so I'm glad to find this sport."