If you’re putting it into sports terms, Nik Wallenda is looking for a wire-to-wire victory Sunday night in Chicago.
By all true measurements, the 35-year-old high-wire wonder performs professional athletic feats of endurance, strength and agility on his game day. He just may trick you into thinking he’s got a dare-devil-may-care attitude, which is completely counter to his faith-based way of living and training.
He’s already done a live TV crossing over Niagara Falls in 2012, and then traversed 1,500 feet over the Grand Canyon in 2013. Wallenda’s latest multi-million-viewer challenge (Discovery Channel, 4 p.m.) starts with walking over the Chicago River on a 15-degree incline, the steepest angle he has ever tried. He estimates that will take about 12-to-15 minutes, depending on the Windy City winds and how long he really wants to enjoy the view. The second part is a blindfold walk, a two-to-three minute pace on a 100-foot wire that is some 500 feet high.
The last two TV performances were visually stunning, but lacked one interesting element that this one adds – a good ol’ crowd of folks below and in neighboring buildings able to cheer (or jeer) him on, as if he was at Wrigley Field. City officials have asked for complete cooperation from the spectators, including an ordinance not to have barbeques on the balcony while all this is going on.
“That’s no fun, I was going to stop by as many barbeques as I could on the way up,” Wallenda said. “There are all these restrictions about making noise, and such, and I appreciate that, but we’re in a city and I expect to hear sirens, and cars and crowds screaming.
“I get goose bumps thinking about the roar of the crowd. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. It’s not like I need complete silence. I’d probably be a bad golfer. I don’t know, I’ve never tried.”
Retiring to a life on the links someday isn’t in the Wallenda DNA. The seventh-generation acrobat who describes himself as an “Extreme Funambulist” on his Twitter account, doesn’t plan to be doing any social media while he’s above the Chicago skyline. Although, that added element of don’t-walk-and-text didn’t come up in our Q-and-A:
Q: Are safety nets over rated? In your line of work, and in general? What do you consider your safety net in life?
A: I’ve been walking on the wire since I was 2 and was trained without a net, harness or tether. Therefore undertaking this walk with a harness would actually be more dangerous for me than doing it the way I’m trained. I would definitely consider my ‘safety net’ my faith too. Faith is just another extension of my life, a huge part and probably the most important thing in my life. Most dear to me is my faith. Continue reading