Over the weekend, amidst the picturesque landscape of Nephi and the Wasatch Mountains, an extraordinary tale of passion, dedication, and support unfolded. Meet 84-year-old Kim Knor, an absolutely delightful woman whose skydiving adventures seem like they’re straight out of a movie script.
In 1959, when Knor (then Kim Emmons) was 20, her passion for skydiving was already burning. “I found out at six years old on my own that’s what I wanted to do,” Kim expressed, recounting how the tales of her uncle’s military parachute jumps were catalysts for her airborne ambitions.
She had been dreaming of her first jump since then, and with only 4 months until she turned 21 (the legal age to parachute at the time), she just couldn’t wait any longer. So, she made the bold decision to forge her parents’ signatures and took to the skies.
“I thought that the world had just opened up new to me,” she said, recounting the feeling of her very first skydive. From then on, she was hooked. Soon after, she became one of only 2 women to compete against the men at the U.S. Parachute Team tryouts and made history the following year by becoming a pivotal member of the inaugural U.S. Women’s Parachute Team.
“They didn’t have any American team for the World Champions. They had men going but not women,” Kim explained, identifying a gap she was eager to fill. Her leap of faith, both literal and metaphorical, paid off in 1962 when she, alongside her teammates, clinched gold in the world meet against 19 countries. She recalled, “It was the first time the United States had women in the world championships, and we won the gold.” Expressing her astonishment, Kim added, “I was in shock when we won it the first time out.”
Their victory didn’t just garner medals but sparked a movement. As they returned to the U.S., Kim noted, “I think all the women that were there on the team when they went home, all the newspapers, TV shows, everything wanted to hear about it.” The nation was gripped by their story, inspiring many to look skywards.“It inspired a lot of people, I think maybe to get involved in the sport after all” she said, smiling.
Fast forward to today, Kim’s passion for skydiving hasn’t waned a bit. Six decades after standing atop the podium with gold around her neck, she’s embarked on a new challenge that’s equally thrilling — completing 1,000 lifetime skydives. Achieving this remarkable feat would earn her the Gold Wings, an accolade her late husband had achieved. “My dream was to get to 1,000 jumps so we’d both have it,” she confided. Having already amassed over 400 jumps when she began this journey in 2003, Kim is now closer than ever to her goal, with over 590 jumps to her name.
But this endeavor isn’t just about personal milestones. Kim’s quest has ignited a spark within the skydiving community. An undertaking of this magnitude, particularly with tandem jumps, comes with substantial costs. Recognizing the gravity of her ambition and the financial strain attached to it, the skydiving community, including the 45,000 members of the United States Parachute Association (USPA), have rallied behind her. Dropzones, skydiving enthusiasts, and institutions from across the country and even around the world have pitched in to aid Kim in her quest for the Gold Wings.It was this overwhelming outpour of support that brought Kim to Nephi.
Skydive the Wasatch, hearing of her mission, didn’t just offer her a place to jump but embraced her journey as their own. Owner Leon Roullard wanted to do something special for her, so along with members of the local community and the entire team at Skydive the Wasatch, they planned a special cookout under the glow of the sunset and the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains. They opened their doors, and hearts, to Kim, solidifying her belief that the skydiving community is truly one big family.
The local Nephi community beyond Skydive the Wasatch even stepped up to make sure Kim knew how much she was idolized and supported. Local business owner Wyatt Penrod of Pinnacle Laser Engraving wanted to do something extra special for her, and presented her with a plaque to commemorate her journey and her time in Nephi.
“Oh, I love it” she said, back on the ground after completing her 598th jump on Sunday. But even with all of the love and support she gets from the people on the ground, Kim says that’s not where she belongs… “My favorite place to be is in the sky.” she said, “I like to be under a parachute. That’s my favorite thing”.
When asked why she chooses to continue to jump, even at 84 years old, Kim points out that her age has nothing to do with it. “Don’t put things off that you say, Well, maybe next year or maybe next week… I’m too old or whatever the excuses are. Don’t do that. Just get out there and do it. If it comes in inside your heart or it’s in your mind or you’d like to try it, this is your opportunity to try it.”
Her final piece of advice?… “Anytime life gets too difficult or too sad just go make a jump, and then everything’s good!”