News & Features
80 and Still Jumping
by Nick Bollettieri
, 28 November 2011
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For many years I have been close with the folks at West Point and the Military. I have not only spoken to the cadets, but I have also developed a very strong relationship with their tennis teams and coaches. Last year, at the 2010 US Open, Coach Peck (from West Point) brought down the members of his tennis team to watch some of the matches. As we talked, I opened up my loud Italian mouth and sort of suggested that I would be interested in skydiving with the Golden Knights for my 80th birthday (July 31, 2011). I didn't think much of it afterwards, but Coach Peck set the wheels in motion.
When I found out later that year that Coach Peck had arranged for the jump to happen, I began to tell everyone and get pretty excited. I hadn't jumped in 57 years, since I was a paratrooper. As the date got closer and closer, I started getting more and more nervous, but I couldn't back out, that's certainly not my style!
As you know, I don't need much sleep to operate and the week before the jump I didn't sleep too well as I got thinking about you know what! This feeling intensified as we got closer to jump-day while spending time at my farmhouse in Vermont for the closing of my camp, Camp Kaizen. The day before the jump, my 80th birthday, my good friend Steve and I made the eight hour trip from Vermont to West Point in New York. When we arrived, the guys from West Point threw me a surprise birthday party which definitely helped take my mind off things for a bit.
They had a special gift for me which was a fitted Golden Knights jumpsuit with the emblems from my old division, the 187th Airborne R.C.T (Go Rakkasans!) as well as a pair of parachute wings personally given to me by Colonel Fleming. It was awesome! At the end of the night, when I went back to my room and tried that jumpsuit on and it looked so darn good that I almost slept in it! I literally did not sleep the entire night as I kept telling myself that at this point I had no choice: I had to jump!
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