In a further attempt to remind myself how out of shape I currently am, I volunteered to cover the World Freerunning Championships in Trafalgar Square. Having shot the preview for last year’s event at the Roundhouse, I was reasonably prepared for what to expect but seeing it up close was something else.

A small portion of my brain has convinced itself for no reason that both freerunning and parkour are activities I could do if I put my mind to it so as long as I never actually try it, the illusion can remain. I guess it comes from wanting to be as undeniably cool as these guys!

When you see gimps limping down the street, desperately trying to exude that special something, it looks decidedly crap when compared to what today’s competitors have mastered. The added element that sets it apart is how competitive yet supportive they are to each other. Before each run, the waiting competitors applaud and hug the next one up. During each run, the others follow what the current runner is doing and cheer as they try new things. Knowing how the fear-mongering members of the media like to characterize male teenagers and young adults as a dangerous threat, it’s satisfying to see living proof of their ignorance.

Anyway, enough rambling nonsense. Despite the fact that the stage designers and health & safety bods seemed to have got together beforehand to work out how to make the backgrounds to any photos as messy as possible, it was still possible to get a few clean shots with certain crops and angles. The next problem with this type of event is that the runs appear to be improvised on the spot so there’s no way of knowing what wall they’ll leap off or block they’ll somersault over. Combined, these factors mean you get a reasonable amount of exercise leaping up and down to try and get the right position as they look as though they’re heading towards your pre-scouted sweet-spots.

My favourite line of the day came from the biog of German freerunner Jason Paul who said that his ultimate goal in life is “to live a life you could base a really awesome movie on.” Marvellous.

The day ended on a patriotic note with British entry Tim ‘Livewire’ Shieff crowned as the 2009 champion. American film and music video star Victor ‘Showtime’ Lopez took the silver with Jason Paul of awesome life-story fame continuing his epic by taking bronze. Bravo, chaps.

5 Responses to “Freerunning the world”

  1. I watched this event on BBC 3 and was impressed at the sheer athleticism, energy and supportive spirit of the competitors. I don’t think the course lent itself to keeping the fluidity going, which is a pleasure to watch, but there were some amazing acrobatics.

    Livewire was the rightful winner. That flag move and invisible ladder move was unbelievable, showing enormous amounts of upper body strength and control. He needs to tie-up his trackie bottoms better though!

    I dread to know what these guys knees and ankles will be like in a few years time!

    Anyway… great shots Leon. The composition of the 7th is funny with the background swoosh placed just so. :D

    Posted by Tim
  2. Oh man – I found out about this way too late – otherwise I’d have gone up there. But there’s nothing like a press pass to get you the best views. These shots are superb – this is like pornography for a photographer… just without the pornography :-§

    I’m moving to Cardiff soon and last time I was there there was a group of free runners about so I think I’ll try and track them down again.

    As Tim said, Shieff was out of this world. He doesn’t look all that strong on TV but his moves paid testament to his incredible upper body strength.

    If you do decide to try it out, make sure someones taking photos for us! ;-)

    Posted by Tom Ashmore
  3. ha, i love that last shot…sneaking past the security camera!

    Posted by carmel
  4. “Knowing how the fear-mongering members of the media like to characterize male teenagers and young adults as a dangerous threat, it’s satisfying to see living proof of their ignorance…”

    I couldn’t agree more – the local guys who skate in Gosport and Portsmouth couldn’t be a friendlier group of people if they tried. We constantly have new customers arrive at the shop saying how supportive the skateboarders are towards new guys!

    Anyway, the rest of the article was pretty damn good – but that just stuck out as an often overlooked point!

    Posted by Airtime Skate Shop

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