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US daredevil completes Grand Canyon tightrope walk

24 june 2013, 15:41
0
US daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first man to cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope Sunday, completing his latest record-breaking feat in just under 23 minutes, AFP reports.

The 34-year-old, who walked across the Niagara Falls last year, prayed repeatedly as he crossed a tributary gorge of the US landmark on a high wire some 1,500 feet (457 meters) above the Little Colorado River.

Wind guests were higher than expected, and he twice crouched down on the wire. "Those winds (were) so unpredictable ... just out of the blue there would be a 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour gust," he said.

"My arms are aching like you couldn't believe," he added, hugging his wife and children after the nerve-wracking walk over the stunning gorge in eastern Arizona, broadcast live around the world.

Organizers said he took 22 minutes and 54 seconds to cross the 1,400 feet (426 meters) -- faster than anticipated -- giving a thumbs up and half-running the last several yards to reach the other side.

Wallenda has been planning the walk for about four years, homing in on a remote location at the eastern end of the mighty geological chasm, on land operated by Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.

He began final training in Florida weeks ago, boosting stamina by walking repeatedly along a 1,000-foot long rope and using wind machines to simulate gusts of up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour.

Wallenda had planned to be able to take questions from journalists live while on the high wire, but it became clear within a few minutes of the start that winds were too high.

"That's a view there buddy. Praise God, this is awesome," he said, as he stepped out into the void. "Thank you Jesus for this beautiful view," he added.

"Praise you Jesus, how I love you," he said repeatedly, adding that there was "a lot of wind."

"Winds are way worse than I expected," he said about six minutes into the walk, in comments broadcast live by the Discovery Channel in 219 countries around the world.

His father was in constant live radio link with him, although for the first five minutes the conversation consisted largely of Wallenda asking Jesus and God to help him, and to calm the winds.

"Thank you for calming that cable, Lord," he said at one point.

He first crouched down before the half-way point, explaining afterwards he needed to stabilize the cable, and himself. "The winds were getting really gusty right then," he said.

"It was just getting really, really uncomfortable," he added.

Wallenda was rigged up with a microphone and live cameras, including one on his chest looking straight downwards to the Canyon floor below -- a distance more than the height of the Empire State Building.

As he passed the half-way point he continued to pray -- but as he neared the other side, the tension lifted palpably, notably when, instead of thanking God and Jesus, he said: "Thank you Discovery Channel for believing in me."

After fast-walking the last several meters he fell into the arms of his wife Erendira and his three children. "It's so important to have my family there. I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for their support," he said.

Asked what his next stunt would be, he said: "My dream for my next stunt is to walk between two skyscrapers in New York City."

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