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Wallenda successfully completes tightrope walk

LITTLE COLORADO RIVER GORGE, Ariz. — Daredevil Nik Wallenda successfully traversed Sunday night a quarter-mile-long tightrope stretched 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon.

Shortly before the walk, Wallenda described the stunt as "a dream come true.'"

During his walk across the wire, he frequently praised Jesus and once knelt and blew a kiss.

The 34-year-old Sarasota resident set out Sunday on a cable longer than four football fields stretched over the gorge that had been eyed by another high-wire performer decades ago but never completed.

The stunt came a year after Wallenda traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record. He planned to use the same 2-inch-thick cable he used to cross the falls, only this time without any safety harness.

After saying a prayer, "I give my wife and kids a hug and a kiss and tell them I'll see them in a bit," he told reporters Friday in Flagstaff.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family — a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats and great tragedy.

His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

Nik Wallenda, who was born a year after his great-grandfather died, began wire walking at the age of 2, on a 2-foot high stretched rope. He grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager.

French high-wire walker Philippe Petit had that same desire and set up a cable above the Little Colorado River, but Navajo officials said he never went through with the stunt and left his equipment there only to be taken down recently by Wallenda's crew.

"I don't understand why he didn't," Wallenda said. "It's a site that works, makes sense. He clearly failed at it, so I want to do it successfully."

Petit didn't return messages left by the Associated Press.

The Discovery Channel broadcast Wallenda's walk live on live television at 8 p.m. Sunday, but with a 10-second delay.

Wallenda was wearing two cameras, one looking down the mostly dry Little Colorado River bed and one facing straight ahead. He wore leather shoes with an elk-skin sole to help grip the cable.

Wallenda was highly confident in his ability to reach the other side, having walked in 52 mph wind gusts during Tropical Storm Andrea with a torrential downpour and training with wind machines that simulated 45-55 mph gusts.

Wallenda successfully completes tightrope walk 06/23/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 24, 2013 7:02am]
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