When Nik Wallenda walks an 1,800-foot cable above Niagara Falls this summer, his biggest challenge won’t be the mist or wind in his face – it’ll be the first step of his historic feat.
"The first step’s definitely the hardest one,” Wallenda said Tuesday on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “After the first step’s over you’re there, you’re committed. After the first step, you’re not gonna turn around and come back. Youre just gonna go.”
Wallenda this week got a taste of the national fame he’s expected to bring to the falls when he walks the wire sometime between June and September.
The stuntman and father told legendary Sports Illustrated reporter Frank Deford, now working with HBO, that his parents used to shake his practice cable to prepare him for the surprises he might face on the wire.
“When I was younger, I’d be walking the wire and all of a sudden something would hit me from the side and it would be a pinecone. Or a football would fly in front of my face,” Wallenda told Deford. ”And it as my parents. You ever knew what was coming at you. And it as my parents trying to distract you so I would be prepared for anything.”
The partiarch of the famous family, Karl, died in a 1978 wire-walking accident in Puerto Rico, though the younger Wallenda rarely mentions the accident and stresses the intense training and safety measures that precede his walks.
"We're trained our entire lives ever since I was little -- even at 2 years old, when I could barely talk -- that when I get off of a wire, I grab the wire,” Wallenda told The Buffalo News in August. “It's very peaceful, actually, out on the wire, because it's just me and myself. All the troubles of the world go away, because it's just me and that wire."
To see Wallenda practicing his wire-walking techniques, watch a trailer of the HBO special.
Wallenda was scheduled to be in Albany today meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s senior staff and state safety officials. He hasn’t set a date for the walk, but officials on both sides of the border are busy preparing for their day in the national spotlight.
-News Niagara Reporter Charlie Specht