Saturday, December 28, 2002

Skydivers Leap From Malaysian Buildings

By KANA RAJU
Associated Press Writer

U. S. skydiver Matthew Strickland hangs on the roof top of a shopping mall at the Petronas Twin Tower during a practice session in Kuala Lumpur Saturday, Dec. 28, 2002. Strickland, 31, a builder from Santa Cruz, California, drifted off course Saturday and landed awkwardly on a ledge of the shopping mall at the towers' base. Skydivers plunged off the world's tallest buildings Saturday to warm up for a competition which starts Sunday and ends Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Teh Eng Koon)
Skydivers plunged off the world's tallest buildings Saturday to warm up for a competition held only rarely because the activity is banned in most countries.
The skydivers, who will take part in a tournament scheduled to start Sunday, leaped from a balcony of the 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Strong wind gusts blew many of the skydivers off course, pushing them away from the target circle on the ground - a situation that would cost them points when the competition starts.
"It was a great jump, although I missed the circle by a couple of feet," said Jim Surber, a 47-year-old engineer from Kansas City, Kan.
Jumping from the platform at the building's 73rd floor was "a lot more exciting" than conventional sky diving, he said.
It's a lot more dangerous, too. Under the rules of the competition, divers must free-fall for between four and six seconds before opening their parachute. The ride takes about one minute.
Matthew Strickland, 31, a builder from Santa Cruz, Calif., drifted off course and landed awkwardly on a shopping mall at the towers' base.
Jumpers said they were exhilarated afterward.
"It was truly overwhelming," said Tim Rigby, 36, a British citizen who works as an engineer in Los Angeles. "It is not always that you get to jump in the middle of the city, and the twin towers make it all the more challenging."
Norwegian Vibeke Knutson, 29, said she had wanted to jump from the Malaysian towers since she watched the 1999 movie "Entrapment," which featured the buildings.
"I finally had my chance after waiting three years," said Knutson, who said she was shaking from the adrenaline rush. "I'm so happy that I landed safely. I'm still shivering but it is such a nice feeling."
The sport of BASE jumping - leaping from cliffs or man-made structures - is forbidden in many countries because property owners fear the cost of liability insurance or lawsuits over the high-risk practice. The acronym BASE stands for buildings, antennas, spans and earth - the fixed objects from which jumps are made.
In Malaysia, the jumpers signed insurance waivers before setting foot in the 88-story Petronas skyscrapers - the pinnacle of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's efforts to modernize the Southeast Asian nation.
Malaysia has several times approved extreme skydiving competitions - including a jump from the twin towers on the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1999 - and divers hope the recognition will help legitimize the activity.