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Wallenda calm about Niagara walk

On the ground aerialist Nik Wallenda is a bundle of energy, but once he sets foot on a cable strung high above the thundering Niagara Falls, he says he will be completely calm.

In fact, the only thing Wallenda says is making him nervous about Friday's high-wire walk is also what will keep him from, in his words, plummeting to his death.

On Friday night Wallenda's attempt at being the first person to walk across the falls on a tightrope will be broadcast on a live ABC special, with CTV carrying it in Canada. The American broadcaster is partly funding Wallenda's walk, but also requested he wear a tether in case something goes wrong.

It's not to Wallenda's liking.

"If anything it makes me nervous to wear a tether," he said Wednesday. "I know that sounds crazy, but it makes me nervous because you have to understand, I've trained a little bit for the last week in one, never in my life have I worn a tether (during a stunt) so it's just an added thing on my mind."

The tether will be attached to Wallenda and the wire, trailing behind him as he crosses the 550-metre cable from the United States to the Canadian side of the falls. It won't keep him from falling off the wire, but it will keep him from falling into the churning and deadly water below.

The stunt has been planned to a T, Wallenda said Wednesday, so he is not nervous at all.

"The nerves go away more and more the closer we get," he said. "I know it sounds strange, but it's more excitement than anything."

That excitement was on display at a press conference Wallenda held Wednesday, as he spoke for nearly 30 minutes, answering questions at a rapid-fire pace and barely pausing to take a breath.

"People, I can't describe it to you enough," said the manic Wallenda. "This is a dream that I've had since I was six years old, a dream that thousands of people have said is impossible...We're making history in two days. I can't tell you how ecstatic I am."

He is a seventh-generation member of the famed Wallenda family, and true to form the stunt will be a family affair. Wallenda's father will be talking him through the walk, expected to last between 30 and 40 minutes, using an ear piece.

Wallenda had earlier estimated the walk will cost about $1.2 million to $1.3 million, including fabrication and installation of the custom-made steel wire, permits and security on both sides of the border, travel, and marketing.

He had said his deal with ABC to televise the event would offset some of his expenses, but nowhere near all of it.

When asked about money Wednesday, the 33-year-old Wallenda said "things are coming along well, we had a lot of people step up."

Wallenda's last practice was Monday, and little but time now stands between him and his historic walk.

The wire is now strung across the falls, and Wallenda took some time Wednesday after his press conference to take a look at the set-up.

"I'd love to get out there right now and test it out if I could," he said.

Wallenda also met with dozens of fans at a meet-and-greet, including 10-year-old Jacob Lacroix. He and his sister were first in line.

"He's inspirational," Jacob said. "I don't think anyone else could do that."

Wallenda will meet with fans again on Thursday.

The Niagara Falls Parks Commission expects 120,000 people to gather on the Ontario side of the falls when he attempts his walk.

The Canadian Press


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