Saturday saw the return to London of the BarclayCard World Freerun Championships, offering a chance for the best of the best from the world of urban freerunning / parkour to show their moves and duke it out for the title of 2009 World Champion.
As befitted the increasing stature of this extreme sport, not only was the venue upgraded from Camden’s Roundhouse to the somewhat-grander, open-air arena of Trafalgar Square, but the final round of 10 contestants was broadcast live on BBC3. A full “urban obstacle course” was constructed at the base of Nelson’s column, though the Vice-Admiral in question was facing in the wrong direction to catch any of the action, more’s the pity.
Unusually for London in summertime, it was warm and sunny, and the largely school-age crowd occasionally looked in danger of melting during the four-hour course of the event. But skilful performances kept them going between the competitive rounds, with displays by breakdancing b-boys, a very impressive beatboxer (named, charmingly, PeteBox), and a set from Diversity, the winners of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent, who went down a treat with the punters.
Though there is some controversy within the parkour community about whether events such as these promote a dangerous image of what is essentially a non-competitive sport, none of the athletes here seemed to put anything less than 100% effort into it, with several entrants having to retire in the middle of their 60 second gymnastic routines due either to fatigue or injury. Ensconced in the press pit, we were witness to several very painful-looking ankle twists and faceplants at close order. Despite all that, when the points were totted up it was crowd favourite Tim “Livewire” Shieff who took home 1st place and was crowned 2009 World Freerun Champion. Surely the fact that Mr. Shieff is British had nothing whatever to do with the tremendous amounts of applause that greeted his victory.
Words by Luke Robinson, photos by Luke Robinson and Shane Griffin. See more photos from the event.