Cheers to Nik Wallenda, an unparalleled aerialist, master of Grand Canyon

June 25, 2013 

Nik Wallenda has proven time and again to be the most daring of daredevils of this generation -- and perhaps of all time. By walking across a thin strip of metal cable stretched above the Little Colorado River Gorge in Arizona on Sunday -- 1,500 feet from the riverbed -- Wallenda established an epic mark in the history of risky ventures.

The Sarasota native obliterated his amazing tightrope stroll over Niagara Falls last year with another death-defying stunt certain to go down in the annals of acrobatics. Just watching the 22-minute walk, and hearing Wallenda's prayers with every step, was a mind-boggling experience.

So the amazing 34-year-old Nik Wallenda elevates -- literally -- the reputation of the celebrated "Flying Wallendas" circus family into a higher stratosphere. The seventh-generation aerialist transcended his family's fame with this latest Guinness world record, now his eighth.

After the past few weeks of mounting public excitement amid his practice sessions on a wire at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, the nation witnessed a feat that should never be duplicated.

Wallenda might have steely nerves, daring do and powerful prayers, but anyone watching could not have been all that calm. We can now unclench our stomachs.

When he practically ran the final yards on the wire to the finish line and leaped into history, Wallenda celebrated what everyone celebrated -- a milestone as the first person to walk across the Grand Canyon not on the ground.

(People of a certain age will remember another daredevil who dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon without the assistance of terra firma. Evel Knievel lobbied the federal government for permission to launch a rocket over the landmark, but since that failed, he set his sights on the Snake River Canyon in Idaho.

(But that 1974 venture plummeted to earth as his parachute deployed immediately after launch and his vehicle crashed just feet from the river.)

Nik Wallenda rejected the idea of any safety device -- parachute, tether, nothing. Who didn't gasp when he paused and crouched twice as high winds fired up and the wire started swaying? And with dust blowing into his contact lenses? A popular anagram came to mind then: OMG!

But since he practiced during 52-mph winds from Tropical Storm Andrea and then 92-mph blasts from a wind machine, Wallenda had his sea legs, so to speak. Well, as the saying goes, he lives another day -- and may he live a very, very long time.

Next up, another tall task. Nik Wallenda wants to walk the high wire between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in Manhattan.

But if his wife and children oppose any more tightrope walking, he'll retire, he stated after his Arizona achievement. Family first, for sure, and that should be paramount.

He's given the world plenty of gut-wrenching thrills. He's mastered an iconic landmark of nature. He has more than secured the family reputation for astounding stunts. He has nothing left to prove.

Many thanks for Sunday's awesome achievement.

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