19 Aug 2023

The Countdown is On for the 6th FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship in Grudziądz, Poland

By Hiromi Furukawa (JPN), Hot Air Balloon Pilot, CIA PMR & Officials Subcommittee member

The 2023/6th FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship (JWHABC) begins soon with details as follows.

  • Date:  Practice flights on 20th and 21st August. Competition flights from 22nd to 26th August.
  • Location:  Grudziądz, Poland, which is about 200km northwest of Warsaw.

The first JWHABC was held in 2012 in Lithuania.  This year will be the 6th edition. JWHABC has been hosted in Poland three times in a row- Wloclawek in 2014, Leszno in 2021 and Grudziądz in 2023.

Why is GRUDZIĄDZ the host of the 6th Junior World Balloon Championship?

GRUDZIĄDZ is strongly associated with aviation history. It is the place where the famous Polish Air Force Officer School was established in 1925.  Later it moved to Dęblin, where training of the elite of military pilots is still conducted.

Seeing balloons, gliders, airplanes, and para gliders flying in the sky is a very common scene in Grudziądz. They care about these traditions and the sentiment it brings- because they think it's worth it.

This will be the first big event for the city of Grudziądz.  The director of the organization thinks this will be a big challenge for him and for his team, but they are confident of a successful outcome.


Forty-five pilots from 17 countries will compete for the title of Junior World Hot Air Balloon Champion.   The youngest participant is Tereza Stanova from Czech Republic, and she is 18 years old.

Five participants are from Poland. One of the Polish competitors, Wojciech Nowakowski, said that they have been doing trainings together since the beginning of this flying season. The more they participate in competitions together, the stronger their teamwork becomes. They will compete in JWHABC helping each other, and they hope that one of them finishes on the podium.


Who can compete in the “Junior” category in Ballooning?

All persons on board in the basket must be aged less than 30 at the start of the event. The Gold medal winner shall automatically be invited to the next World Championship.

The Junior World HABC is every two years.  Pilots have only a small window of opportunity to participate in this event during their pilot career so it will be very prestigious to earn the gold medal.

The organizer of the event :

is the Grudziądz Balloon Club, in cooperation with the Polish Aero Club, the Polish Aero Club Balloon Commission and the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).

The Strategic Partner of the event is the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, the Main Partner is the City of Grudziądz. The event is also widely supported by the Senator of the Republic of Poland, Ryszard Bober, and the Minister of Sport and Tourism, Kamil Bortniczuk.

Who is the Event Director?

The event director of JWHABC is Eugenijus Komas.  Eugenijus started his career in ballooning 25 years ago as an Observer, a competition official assigned to each competitor. I was also an Observer at that time, and I have known him many years. I asked him for a comment about JWHABC even though he was busy preparing for another event. He kindly replied to me.

Eugenijus shared his thoughts about the upcoming Junior WHABC:
He feels the organizer is making a lot of effort to make the event of the highest level. He gave me an example to explain that.

When he went to Grudziądz for the first time 2 years ago, they showed him the facility for the competition head office of the Championship.  But it was not the best in his opinion, and he told the organizer.

Last year, for the pre–Junior Worlds, a different place for the competition head office was used.  It was not a good place in the hot weather.  It turned out to be like an oven, too hot. The organizer found another place for this year.  Eugenijus thinks it will be an ideal place for this kind of event.

So, we are in good hands.

Eugenijus said that the most important things right now are the weather and the task settings. He really hopes that everything is going to work perfectly as he has been planning. So far everything looks good to him, but he also said that the devil is hiding in the details. Let’s hope that we will not see the devil during the Championship!

A Little Background about Eugenijus Komas.
Grudziądz is his 4th Junior WHABC as the event director. During his 25 years in ballooning, he was the Event Director for:

  • Junior WHABC three times (out of five Junior Championships).
  • Women’s World HABC in 2018 in Poland.
  • Event Director at many National Championships.
  • Deputy Director at the European Championship once.


Comments from the gold medalist of Junior WHABC in 2018, Jan Suchy.

Luckily in the FAI Ballooning Public & Media Relations (PMR) Sub-Committee, we have former gold medalist of the Junior Worlds, Jan Suchy. I asked him for a comment.

To take a part at an event like the Junior Worlds, you feel proud! In 2018, the organizers opened the event with a public ceremony in Wloclawek and we got to really feel what it is like to represent a nation. But besides that, the juniors, and I would say unlike at any other event, the championship is extremely social. The “kids” hang around together, exchange experience, mingle in between the teams and together create an atmosphere you can hardly feel at any other event. At least these are my memories from both junior world events I took part at.

My suggestion to everyone participating, first of all, would be to enjoy the event one with another! You are there to meet pilots and crew from all around the world, with different backgrounds, experience and skills. Take an advantage of that! As the community worldwide is still rather small, those people will be around for a long time. And competition wise? As always - try rather scoring alright on all tasks, instead of perfectly on one! Ballooning is highly about relativity to the rest of the pilots. Keep that in mind before fighting hard for an off-grid target.

I am really looking forward to the updates from JWHABC at Watchmefly, FAIBallooning channels and the various social medias that organizers is offering. I am sure  you will find the best moments from the event. Everyone, stay tuned!

Balloons Bring Good Luck

“Balloons bring good luck” is the motto of this event. The organizer wants to let people know that ballooning is for everyone. To achieve that, the organizer planned some events where people can come closer to flying balloons or even go into the basket in tethered balloons.

Be a spectator at the site and from home.

You can see not only the competition itself, such as who is leading or who got good results, but you also can feel the emotions that everybody at the site is feeling even via social media.
Follow the Championship results here:

There will be photos, videos from the ground and from the drones during the event.

The organizer will be updating information from the site.
All the useful links to stay up-to-date can be found here.

When possible, there will be live streaming on the FAI Ballooning Facebook page as well. So please do not forget to follow FAI Ballooning Facebook page.

If you are at the site and want to share your experience on social media, please include the following hashtags.

  • #grudziadzballoons
  • #jwhabc23
  • #balloons23
  • #faiballooning