Tightrope walker to take on Niagara Falls

Perched on an impossibly narrow steel cable some 60 metres in the air, this scion of one of America’s first families of acrobats is aiming to do something untried in more than a century: crossing the treacherous Niagara Falls on a highwire. If he succeeds, the achievement will add to the lore and legend of the renowned Wallenda family, famous over the decades for jaw-dropping stunts executed from dizzying heights. Wallenda says this coming challenge will be his greatest feat yet.

Thin line to fame: Nik Wallenda practices his tightrope walking a day before he attempts to be the first man to tightrope walk across the Niagara Falls. Pic/AFP

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was six-years-old. 27 years I’ve been waiting and to do this, and it finally is coming true,” said Wallenda, who has been walking on tightropes since the age of two. Wallenda estimates that it should take about 40 minutes to cross from one side of the falls to the other, along the 550-metre metal cable on which his life hangs.

For the task, Wallenda will be wearing a pair of shoes custom-made in supple leather by his mother. “They are almost like Indian moccasins with a suede leather bottom: the leather is there to protect my feet from getting bruised by the cable and so that I can feel the wire,” Wallenda said. The Wallenda name for generations has been the stuff of legend, astonishing audiences first in Europe, then in the United States with their aerial acrobatics.

But their name is also synonymous with tragedy. Several family members over the years have lost their lives attempting dangerous routines. Nik’s great grandfather, Karl Wallenda, is among those who have died while performing, plunging to his death at the age of 73, as he attempted a highwire walk between two towers in Puerto Rico. The danger is real in this latest stunt as well, Nik Wallenda said. Although to placate his US sponsor he will be wearing a safety harness. “I never wore one my in my life or in my entire career,” Wallenda said. “I am not excited about it, but I really don’t have a choice unfortunately.”

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