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Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

Kwon Won-tae of South Korea participates in the first World High Wire Championships in Seoul, in which participants cross the Han River on a 1 km (0.62 miles) wire, May 3, 2007. The event is part of the annual
Kwon Won-tae of South Korea participates in the first World High Wire Championships in Seoul, in which participants cross the Han River on a 1 km (0.62 miles) wire, May 3, 2007. The event is part of the annual "Hi Seoul Festival" organised by Seoul City which began April 27 and lasts ten days. (Lee Jae-Won - Reuters)
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South Korea has a tradition of tightrope walking going back centuries, but the skill has recently experienced a renaissance after last year's hit film "King and the Clown," which featured a troupe of entertainers who became court jesters. In the movie, Kwon was a stand-in for the lead actor in tightrope walking scenes.

In the Korean tradition, tightrope walkers use fans to maintain balance and also perform jumps and somersaults _ while even cracking jokes to amuse their audience.

There was no such high-wire high jinks Thursday as Kwon maintained a swiftly controlled pace and look of serious determination.

"It's amazing. I am too shaken to speak. I feel like it was myself out there," said Song Won-sun, a businessman watching the event. "I am just worried that the wind will disturb the contestants."

Fastest across Thursday was Abdusataer Dujiabudula of China, who seemed to dance over the wire as he finished in about 11 minutes. His loose-fitting red and gold costume fluttered in the breeze, and he high-fived a man on the high platform as he finished.

"It feels very good. It feels all right. It was very tight," he said, adding that he got tired about two-thirds of the way across.

Pedro Carrillo of Reno, Nev., said it would be "something very big" for him to complete such a distance. The 60-year-old acrobat has been wire-walking for 43 years.

"I feel the wind, that's all I worry about," said Carrillo. "But I think I can keep going once I start."

And so he did, completing the walk in 17 minutes and 7 seconds _ the same time as Kwon.

The winner of the competition will be announced Saturday.


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© 2007 The Associated Press