International paragliders Thomas de Dorlodot from Belgium and Horacio Llorens from Spain arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday to experience local paragliding sites and interact with communities.
The Belgian Embassy in Islamabad welcomed the two aerial adventurers and is currently hosting them.
Belgian athlete De Dorlodot has been flying for over 20 years since the age of 14. He paraglided over mountains across the world and started ‘SEARCH Projects’ which aim to seek and document new adventures.
De Dorlodot first visited Pakistan in 2013, flew hundreds of kilometres and walked thousands of kilometres in knee-deep snow. “It feels like every time I come to Pakistan, it has been to prepare for this trip,” he said.
“I’ve been to Pakistan six times, and every time, we learn something new. I feel everything is in place now for an epic expedition. This will be our biggest expedition ever in Pakistan for sure,” he added.
De Dorlodot stated that he returned to Pakistan because he believed that the country was one of the best for paragliding.
“We fell in love with the country when we first visited. It’s one of the most welcoming countries and is one of the best for paragliding,” the athlete said.
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Horacio Llorens, a five-time world paragliding champion – having glided over from the Mayan ruins in Guatemala to the Aurora Borealis – is the Guinness World record holder for hitting 6G force in 568 rotations (called Infinity Tumbling) on his way down to the Mayan ruins.
This marked Llorens’ third visit to Pakistan after one in 2011 and 2016.
“I love this place,” he said, citing their flights over Hunza, the Himalayas and many more places.
“But this time, we are much more prepared, mentally, and physically. Hopefully, if the weather is good, we are here to do something big,” he claimed.
He stated that the athletes returned not only because of the mountains and paragliding opportunities but also because of the traditional culture and people who have treated them well during their previous stays.
The Belgian Ambassador to Pakistan Philippe Bronchain believed that it was important for athletes to come from Belgium and other countries to Pakistan.
“It’s important to have a better understanding and knowledge of Pakistan. Thanks to these kinds of events, it draws attention to the local community and region,” he said.
Ambassador Bronchain maintained that cultural and sports exchanges also help “understand the local community, how they live and function” and compared it with how people around mountains, such as the Alps in Europe, live.
“It’s also soft diplomacy, which is important for all countries. It’s important for Belgium and Pakistan. It shows what you have, your culture and what you like. It helps us understand each other,” he said.