High-wire artist Nik Wallenda breaks his own world record at Calgary Stampede

Nik Wallenda has broken his own world record for the longest urban high-wire walk, walking more than half-a-kilometre above the Calgary Stampede.

On Monday evening, the death-defying performer crossed the 549-metre tightrope 35 metres above the midway, with no net and with nary a hesitation in his step.

The wire was just 1.9 centimetres wide. 

Thousands of Stampede-goers stopped in their tracks, many with mini doughnuts or other deep-fried treats in hand, to cheer him on from below.

At points during his walk he stopped to balance on one leg and triumphantly pump a fist in the air or lay down on the wire and do push-ups.

“I love interacting with the audience. It’s what I do, I’m an entertainer at heart,” he said following the stunt.

In the last few steps he unclipped his safety harness, prompting gasps from onlookers.

“The only thing that scared me during that walk was that tether. I don’t know if you saw, but it got caught up a few times,” Wallenda said. “The first time it actually pulled me back and the crowd actually gasped as it happened.”

Wallenda said he hadn’t planned on wearing a tether, but was asked to by the Stampede to protect the people underneath. 

It took him more than 20 minutes to cross the grounds.

Nik Wallenda catches his breath in the crane in the bottom left of the photo, after completing a record-breaking high-wire walk at the Calgary Stampede Monday evening. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Wallenda was presented with a gold and silver Stampede belt buckle after breaking his record.

He plans to break his next record in March, when he’ll walk over an active volcano.

Family legacy

Wallenda comes by his adrenaline-seeking thrills honestly. He’s a member of the Great Wallendas, a family that’s done stunts for seven generations — his mother was doing high-wire walks while pregnant with him.

“I was 18-months old, probably younger when my mom would hold my hand and walk me across the wire,” he said.

Last month, he walked 396 metres across a tightrope above Times Square in New York City.

He said performing at the Stampede has always been on his to-do list.

“I just heard about it growing up and always wanted to be a part of it,” he said.

He holds multiple world records, including one for the highest blindfolded walk and the steepest incline for tightrope walking. 

His wife Erendira Wallenda is also a circus performer, from an eight-generation family of circus performers on one side and a seven-generation family of trapeze artists on the other. He proposed to her on a high wire, of course.


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