Rachel Thomas: The Skydiving Star of India

For Rachel, the sky was her destination and soaring high was her lifetime dream

India is a country that worships cricket. It also roots for football and a bit of kabbadi and hockey. However, the land and the individuals rarely follow and support other sports such as gymnastics, swimming, rifle shooting and horse riding to cite a few. For motorsports and adventure sports, the tale is no different. Sadly, the professionals or athletes who take part in these sports spend their entire life in shadow, even after achieving major milestones.

For these reasons, we deliver to you this column about a star skydiver from India whose name is probably not known by many. Her name is Rachel Thomas, and this is her legacy.

How did it start?

Like many of us, Rachel had the dream of flying, but becoming a pilot or an air hostess was not a simple task in the 70s. When she was 24, Rachel came to learn about a civilian skydiving course that was arranged and run by the Skydiving Federation of India. That’s when it all started for Rachel as she got herself enrolled and her skydiving career took off. In the first year, Rachel dived 10 times and in the second year, she did 24.

Glory days

Although she is not a familiar name in the Indian society, Rachel has received the coveted Padma Shree award for her impeccable achievements in skydiving. The former Indian Railways employee has completed over 650 jumps and has dived in more than 11 countries. In 1987, Rachel jumped from the air and landed in the Olympic Stadium at Seoul. Rachel also landed in a stadium at the National Youth Festival where the former President Shankar Dayal Sharma stood and applauded her courage. In 2000, Rachel jumped from an aeroplane with the Prince of Jordan.

Biggest achievement

The biggest moment of Rachel’s life took place in 2002 when she jumped from 7,000 feet over the North Pole. At minus 55 degrees, the star driver jumped from the plane and landed on the North Pole, Point Zero. In an interview with the Deccan Chronicle, Rachel spoke about her time at the Pole. She narrated, “The North Pole was the Everest of my dreams. We stayed on the iceberg for six days with one meal a day, drank Vodka at night before sleeping because I realised that is the only thing that will keep me warm. The toughest part was going to the loo for it was a good distance away, walking on snow, with no door and no roof.”