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THE FALLS GUY; Seventh-generation daredevil first to cross Niagara on tightrope.

Byline: LESLEY YARRANTON

BLASTED by heavy winds and blinded by thick mist, daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

A crowd of 125,000 on the Canadian side and 4,000 on the US side were transfixed as the American took measured steps across the 1,800 ft-long rope over the widest part of the crashing waterfall.

He calmly prayed aloud... and then the 33-year-old from the famous Flying Wallenda family ran the last few metres to the finish in Canada - fulfilling a childhood dream in honour of his hero and great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, who did his last tightrope walk in Puerto Rico in 1978 but fell to his death when hit by a sudden wind.

To his frustration, American TV sponsors ABC insisted Nik, a seventh-generation Flying Wallenda circus performer, wore a safety harness to attempt the feat on Friday in front of a live TV audience of millions, the first time he has worn one in his career. Fearing he could fall to his death on live TV, the company said it would stop filming if he unhooked it.

Wallenda, who wore a microphone for the 25-minute walk, said at the finish: "I'm on cloud nine. This is what dreams are made of."

But halfway through, the wire-walker sounded as if he might falter: "I'm strained, I'm drained.

This is so physical, not only mental but physical."

He said the driving mist, wind and rain had threatened to defeat him: "There was no way to focus on the movement of the cable. If I looked down, there was water everywhere. If I looked up, there was mist in my face."

Nik has been tightrope walking since the age of two and holds six Guinness records for daredevil stunts.

A dozen other tightrope walkers have crossed the Niagara Gorge, including the legendary Great Blondin, but none have tried to cross the Falls themselves.

Nik revealed he now has the first permit to cross the Grand Canyon - a walk three times longer than Niagara Falls.

CAPTION(S):

The amazing journey... Nik's treacherous crossing over the Falls Jubilant... the first to do it So close... Nik broke into a run towards the finish Crashing backdrop... Nik cuts a lonely figure
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 17, 2012
Words:377
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