French to tightrope across Niagara Falls

Feb 18, 2012, 09:08 IST | Agencies

Nik Wallenda gets the green light to be first to attempt 1,800-foot-long walk on a two-inch thick rope

Nik Wallenda gets the green light to be first to attempt 1,800-foot-long walk on a two-inch thick rope

It may not have been the most appropriate choice of phrase. But when Nik Wallenda was told he was to be allowed to attempt a tightrope walk across Niagara Falls, he said: "I'm thrilled to death."

Nerves of steel: Nik Wallenda holds six Guinness World Records and
is delighted about getting permission about walking across the famous

If the 33-year-old daredevil survives his 1,800 foot-long walk on a two-inch thick rope over the famous site, he will become the first to ever achieve the feat.

After months of campaigning, Wallenda was yesterday given permission by Canadian officials to attempt the death-defying stunt this summer. He had already secured support from the American side of the falls last year.

Wallenda, who comes from a long line of circus performers, will walk across the most powerful waterfall in the world on a wire rope without a safety net.

The stunt will take up to 40 minutes through mist and spray, 220 feet above the bottom of the gorge.

It is the first time anyone has attempted to walk on a tightrope over the actual waterfall � in 1859 the acrobat Charles Blondin crossed the gorge on a tightrope, but his stunt was downstream from the actual waterfall.

Stunts over the iconic attraction, which forms the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York, have been prohibited for more than 100 years.

After giving Wallenda permission to perform his stunt, the Niagara Parks Commission insisted it could be attempted only once every 20 years.

Dream come true
Wallenda, from Florida, said, "It's been a dream of mine since I was six years old. I haven't had a chance for it to settle in yet. I'm thrilled to death. This was a dream many told me was impossible. I'm blessed, that's all I can say."

Wallenda, who lives with his wife Erendira and their three children, has been tightrope-walking since he was two.

In 2008, he walked and then cycled across a high-wire suspended from skyscrapers in Newark, New Jersey.
The feat won him a place in the Guinness Book Of Records for the longest and highest bicycle ride on a high-wire.

He currently holds six Guinness World Records.

Family of acrobats
His great-grandfather Karl founded the Flying Wallendas, the family's daredevil circus act. However, he fell to his death aged 73 from a tightrope in high winds in Puerto Rico in 1978.

His great-grandson said, "My family has always been taught to never give up. We've gone through it all, triumph and tragedy. So at no point did I think I would throw in the towel."

Wallenda will wear suede shoes designed to grip the wire in the wet and will train on a full-scale high-wire rig on an airport runway in Pittsburgh, with simulated mist.

"I'll be walking through the mist thrown off by the falls," he added. "I've done walks further and higher. This will be the most iconic."

Last September, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill giving him one year to perform the feat.

Janice Thomson, chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission, said, "This decision was approved in part in recognition of the role that stunting has played in the history and promotion of Niagara Falls.
We have made it clear that this is a very unique one-time situation. It's not an everyday activity and will not be allowed to become an everyday activity."

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