Tethered Wallenda walks wire across Niagara Falls

  • AP, Niagara Falls, Ontario
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  • Updated: Jun 16, 2012 13:06 IST
  • New York State

    New York State Parks employee Evyn Costanzo monitors peregrine falcons along the Niagara Gorge before Nik Wallenda's walk across Niagara Falls on a wire in ...

  • A family

    A family looks as the Maid of the Mist turns around at Niagara Falls, where Nik Wallenda walked a 550 metre-long tightrope in Niagara Falls, ...

  • Nik Wallenda

    Nik Wallenda greets fans after inspecting the wire prior to his walk across Niagara Falls in NY. AP/David Duprey

  • Spectators

    Spectators check out the view where Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope over Niagara Falls in Ontario. AP/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim

  • Nik Wallenda

    Nik Wallenda looks out prior to his tightrope walk in Niagara Falls, NY to attempt what nobody has done before: A high wire walk directly ...

  • Tightrope walker

    Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks the high wire from the US side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara, Ontario. Reuters/Mike Cassese

  • Spectators

    Spectators watch tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walk the high wire from the US side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara, Ontario. ...

  • pumps his fist

    Nik Wallenda pumps his fist as he completes his 1,800 feet-long tightrope walk over the brink of the Niagara Falls in Ontario. AP/The Canadian Press, ...

  • seventh-generation

    The seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas had long dreamed of pulling off the stunt, never before attempted. AP/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn

  • Famed tightrope walker

    Famed tightrope walker Nik Wallenda completed the first walk across Niagara Falls in over a century, braving winds and heavy spray in his historic feat. ...

Daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls, taking steady, measured steps on Friday night for 1,800 feet across the mist-fogged brink of the roaring falls separating the US and Canada.

Afterward, he said he accomplished the feat through "a lot of praying, that's for sure. But, you know, it's all about the concentration, the focus, and the training."

The seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas had long dreamed of pulling off the stunt, never before attempted. Other daredevils have wire-walked over the Niagara River but farther downstream and not since 1896.

"This is what dreams are made of, people," Wallenda said shortly after he began walking the wire.

He took steady, measured steps amid the rushing mist over the falls as an estimated crowd of 125,000 people on the Canadian side and 4,000 on the American side watched. Along the way, he calmly prayed aloud.

ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn't willing to lose the chance and needed ABC's sponsorship to help offset some of the $1.3 million cost of the spectacle.

For the 33-year-old father of three, the Niagara Falls walk was unlike anything he'd ever done. Because it was over water, the 2-inch wire didn't have the usual stabilizer cables to keep it from swinging. Pendulum anchors were designed to keep it from twisting under the elkskin-soled shoes designed by his mother.

The Wallendas trace their roots to 1780 Austria-Hungary, when ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers and trapeze artists. The clan has been touched by tragedy, notably in 1978 when patriarch Karl Wallenda, Nik's great-grandfather, fell to his death during a stunt in Puerto Rico.


After he made it to the Canadian side of the falls, Wallenda said that at one point in the middle of the stunt, he thought about his great-grandfather and the walks he had taken:  "That's what this is all about, paying tribute to my ancestors, and my hero, Karl Wallenda."

About a dozen other tightrope artists have crossed the Niagara Gorge downstream, dating to Jean Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, in 1859. But no one had walked directly over the falls, and authorities hadn't allowed any tightrope acts in the area since 1896. It took Wallenda two years to persuade US and Canadian authorities to allow it, and many civic leaders hoped to use the publicity to jumpstart the region's struggling economy, particularly on the US side of the falls.

A festive crowd gathered on both sides of the border to watch Wallenda, spreading blankets and setting up folding chairs under picture-perfect blue skies and summer-like temperatures.


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