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Wallenda makes history with Niagara Falls tightrope walk

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Associated Press
6/16/2012 12:12:39 AM
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NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. -- Aerialist Nik Wallenda battled brisk winds and thick mist Friday to make history, becoming the first person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

"The mist was so thick, so challenging, those winds hit me from every which direction, was definitely more than I expected for sure," Wallenda said moments after reaching the Canadian side of the falls, where he was greeted by loud cheers from the thousands of spectators gathered to watch him.

"I was very focused, the wind was definitely something you could not train for, the 33-year-old father of three said. "The mist was powerful, the mist was in my eyes."

"My forearms start(ed) to tense up and at that point you just feel like running in if you could, but you can't, you gotta take your time, step by step."

Wallenda was unbelievably calm as he slowly, painstakingly, proceeded step-by-step on a steel cable stretched over the falls, he even found time to give an interview as he was perched precariously over the raging waters below.

"Oh my gosh, it's an unbelievable view," he told ABC, which was broadcasting the spectacle live."

"I'm so blessed to be in the position I am, to be the first person to be right here and to be the first person in the world who will ever be right here, this is truly breathtaking," said Wallenda who was wearing a microphone.

"This is what dreams are made of people, pursue your dreams."

Afterward he credited his training regimen for helping him maintain his ice-cold composure, plus a health dose of prayer.

A lot of praying that's for sure, and that helps a lot," Wallenda said after his walk.

Wallenda, dressed in red and black and holding a long pole horizontally for balance, appeared soaked from the raging waters below.

However Wallenda sounded calm, carrying on a dialogue with his father Terry Troffer as he made his journey with his safety tether trailing behind him.

"How's that harness, it's not cutting off any circulation?" Troffer could be heard asking Wallenda at one point.

"No, I just feel like a jackass wearing it," Wallenda replied.

In a second interview with ABC, after Wallenda crossed the Canada-US border midway over the water, he admitted he was "drained" from the very physical effort.

"That mist was thick and it was hard to see at times," he said. "There was so much moving around me, wind going one way, mist going another, it wasn't pretty."

"It was definitely quite a challenge."

Thousands of people came on both sides of the border to watch the historic feat in person with a much bigger televised audience.

Some people arrived Friday afternoon to stake out a good spot.

Wallenda gathered with his family before the event and they prayed.

Others have crossed the water on tightropes, but over the gorge downstream and not for more than 100 years.

Wallenda comes from a long line of aerialists as a member of the Flying Wallenda family.

The Wallendas trace their roots to 1780 Austria-Hungary, when ancestors travelled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers and trapeze artists. In 1928, the family gave its inaugural performance at Madison Square Garden and earned a 15-minute standing ovation from an astounded audience, who marvelled at them performing without a safety net.

And 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.

Wallenda's historic feat didn't allow him to escape a ritual that everyone who enters Canada goes through -- he was greeted by two border guards who asked to see his passport.

"No I'm not carrying anything over, I promise," a tired but happy Wallenda told the customs agents.

Nik Wallenda  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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