By Mark Ellis, ANS

Life on the edge

First man to walk a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls prayed non-stop during the walk

Nik Wallenda
Tens of thousands of spectators watched Nik Wallenda walk on a two inch thick tightrope stretched 1800 feet over the Niagara Falls between the USA and Canada on June 15, 2012.

Nik Wallenda made history in June when he became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope, in a spectacle watched by over 10 million TV viewers worldwide.

Not surprising for a man dicing with death, he was praying that he didn’t fall. The difference is that Nik Wallenda prays all the time — not just when suspending himself in mid-air on a tightrope.

He made the 550m (1,800ft) walk from the US to Canada on a 61mm (two inch) steel wire in 25 minutes. Viewers were on the edge of their seats as swirling winds made Nik’s feat, broadcast live on the US national TV news, all the edgier. Just to make things worse, heavy mists from the falls below completely soaked the aerial walker and periodically blinded him as he gingerly balanced 200 feet above the raging torrent.

Nik Wallenda at beach
AUGUST 9, 2012: Daredevil Nik Wallenda finishes a 1,500-foot tightrope walk 100 feet above the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

For the first time in his career, he used a safety harness at the insistence of a sponsor. But not even that was a guarantee of safety. Nevertheless, he got all the way across without falling.

“I prayed non-stop,” says Wallenda, 33, a born-again Christian. “The Bible says to pray without ceasing and I’m always praying,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Before he began the audacious attempt, he fasted for eight hours. Then his wife, Erindera, and three children joined hands in a small circle and prayed along the riverside before he set out, just after 10 p.m.

The acrobat’s microphone allowed TV viewers to hear him praising God throughout the journey as he traversed the cable from New York to Canada.

As he reached the most dangerous part of the crossing he was heard to say: “Oh Lord, you’re my Saviour, you’re my King. You’re my Jesus, my Counsellor. You’re my Wisdom. I praise you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Lord. I praise you my Father.”

At one critical moment, his forearm began to cramp and his hand went numb.

“When I’m walking a wire like that, the balancing pole is almost 40 pounds,” he told GMA. “It takes a lot of forearm work and my forearm started to cramp worse than it ever has before.”

Nik Wallenda at theme park
Nik Wallenda at Silver Dollar City theme park, Missouri, five days after his successful walk across Niagara Falls.

But his training, extraordinary focus and fervent prayers made the difference. “It went away, so I was good to go.”

The acrobat’s astonishing feat adds to the legend of the renowned Wallenda family, famous for thrilling audiences and the subject of a 1978 TV movie, “The Great Wallendas.” Nik is a seventh-generation circus performer within the famous family.

He grew up in a “Bible-believing, God-fearing family,” which he says provides stability and peace.

His faith is a vital component of his daily life: “It’s the most important part of my life… It’s undeserved, but God’s involvement in my life has gotten me to where I am in my career.”

The mental and physical challenges were enormous for Wallenda. “Of course there are some nerves there, especially when I was walking directly over the brink of the falls. Mentally, your mind says; what are you doing?” he told GMA.

“That’s when I tell myself; the wire’s the same whether you’re over land or over the water or you’re on the moon. It’s still the same. So focus on the wire and focus on the other side.”

“We all go through challenges. But once we get through them and we look back we say; look how much our lives have changed from going through that challenge.’ If you can focus on the other side it’s that much easier.”

Wallenda wants to cross the Grand Canyon next. “No one in the world has ever done it,” he notes. “It’s about 5,000 feet long, almost a mile — three times the Niagara crossing.”

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