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High-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda completes Grand Canyon walk
June 24, 2013 / 3:21 AM / 4 years ago

High-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda completes Grand Canyon walk

(Updates with successful Grand Canyon walk)

June 23 (Reuters) - High-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda walked untethered across a section of the Grand Canyon on Sunday on a 2-inch-(5-cm-)diameter steel cable.

Following are some facts about the self-styled “King of the High Wire” and his family:

* Wallenda, 34, is a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas, a family of high-wire acrobats, or aerialists, descended from circus performers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the late 1700s.

* Wallenda was born in Sarasota, Florida, in 1979, although he says his first experience on the tightrope came a few months earlier, as his mother, Delilah Wallenda, was still performing while six months pregnant with him.

* His first public performance followed in 1981, when he featured in a show as a tiny clown carried around in a pillow case. He also began walking the wire the same year, but was not allowed to perform professionally on a high wire until his teens.

* Last year, Wallenda became the first person to walk a cable suspended over the brink of Niagara Falls. He was required to wear a safety harness during that stunt. The crossing took him over the U.S. border to Canada, where he was approached by Canadian customs agents who asked for his passport.

* Wallenda’s half-dozen other record-breaking feats include the longest tightrope crossing by bicycle, at 235 feet (72 meters) in New Jersey in 2008, and the highest eight-person pyramid, formed with other family members in 2001.

* He crossed a section of the Grand Canyon on a two-inch (5- cm) diameter steel cable. He made the walk untethered with nothing but the Little Colorado River 1,500 feet below (457 metres). The attempt was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel, with a time delay of a few seconds.

For the Grand Canyon walk, he wore moccasin-style boots with an elk skin sole made by his mother, which allowed him to feel the rounded cable with his feet and provide grip. To aid his balance, he carried a 28-foot, 43-pound (20-kg) pole in his hands.

* The daredevil is well aware of the risks involved in high-wire walking following two fatal accidents in the family’s past. In 1962, two members of the Flying Wallendas were killed in Detroit after falling from a high wire and a third was paralyzed.

In March 1978, his legendary great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell to his death at age 73 during a wire walk in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda, who admitted that Karl’s death had haunted him for years, successfully completed the attempt in 2011. (Reporting by Tim Gaynor; editing by Cynthia Johnston, G. Crosse and Mary Wisniewski)

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