We take a look back at the biggest things that have happened this year in the world of parkour and freerunning.
It’s often around December that events that happened at the beginning of the year suddenly start to feel much longer ago than they actually were. With 2018 rapidly approaching it’s easy to totally forget how jam packed full of experience the last year of life was - not to mention the big changes experienced that have already been fully adjusted to and forgotten about. A lot of the things we’re about to cover probably deserve an article in their own right, but for now let’s take a zoomed-out look back at the year of 2017!
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The story of 2017 starts in the UK, with Parkour becoming an officially recognised sport there after receiving unanimous recognition of all five sport councils in the country. This means UK based parkour organisations can now apply for government funding for various projects, which will inevitably lead to more growth of the sport. The UK is one of the first countries to take this step, and makes it more likely that other nations will follow suit. We have the efforts of Eugene Minogue - the CEO of Parkour UK to thank for this important milestone.
A few months later in the town of Guildford, the UK community got together to remember the late Brewman member, Nye Newman in what turned out to be one of the largest parkour gatherings ever in the UK. Nye tragically died in Paris in a non-parkour related accident on the eve of 2017. Hundreds traveled from across the country, and internationally to train together, and to celebrate the life of a member of our community. It was one of those occasions that remind one how tight-nit we are as a community.
That same month the Motus Projects lads teamed up with the RUN LDN lads, and came out with an absolute banger of a video. Resurgence was the first big video release of the year to really stir up some hype - and of course will stand up for quite some time. It’s packed with absolutely massive movement, and is all the more impressive for the average athlete age being something like 17! And it wouldn’t be The Motus Projects’ only big contribution to 2017 - you can read all about the TMP Community Film Festival here. Nice one, Giles!
Moving onto China - a country that’s showing ever increasing interest in the sport. The Tianmen mountains were the backdrop for the eventful ‘World Parkour Competition’. The ridiculously long course went facebook viral, and I’m sure you were tagged by several of your muggle friends in that POV descent video. Things were looking very close for first place between Dom Di Tommaso and Erik Mukhametshin until Dom took a nasty fall to his head - he was lucky to walk away with only minor injuries. Watch out for an article on Dom’s fall in the near future.
Speaking of Dom, Team Farang received some upgrades in 2017. Dom of course became a Red Bull sponsored athlete (which you can read about here), and that brings the Red Bull athlete count of the team up to three - which is pretty crazy if you think about it. The ultra skillful Valtteri Luoma-Aho also became the latest member to join the crew - further diversifying their portfolio of represented movement styles, and adding yet another flag to the Farang HQ.
Not talking about Roof Culture Asia in this review of 2017 would be a crime to humanity. Storror achieved something truly amazing with this film - it both raises the bar and paves the way for other feature length parkour productions that will inevitably follow. The film wasn’t initially going to be released online this year due to ongoing TV negotiations, so Storror decided to premiere the film across the USA and then finally in London. The Premieres were amazing events, with so many big players in the community showing up to express their support. The film ended up being released on Vimeo in September, much earlier than anticipated. You can purchase Roof Culture Asia here.
The whole FIG debacle - of course it had to be included. I won’t go into detail about this here, as I’ll eventually be writing about this more fully (I still have a lot to learn). Needless to say it’s a hugely complicated and polarizing issue that concerns the very future of our sport, and although it’s all far from over, it reached peak hysteria early this summer - with strongly worded open letters and facebook videos flying each and every direction. You can understand why of course - we want to feel in control of the destiny of our own sport, and we have every reason to be skeptical of a huge multinational corporation’s intentions.
There was controversy surrounding whether or not the FIG organised competitions in Montpelier and Chengdu should be boycotted, with many athletes feeling like they were being judged for choosing to attend. And amid all this, Sebastien Foucan decided to resign as the president of Parkour UK, citing the pain that was caused by all this conflict surrounding FIG, and wanting to get away from all that. Unfortunately it’s probably one of those phases that every sport that reaches a certain critical mass has to endure, and I’m certain there will be plenty more controversy to come.
Physically, we saw the sport move forwards leaps and bounds this year. Both Max Barker and Nate Weston started experimenting with landing flip precisions onto rails, which led to many more starting to work on the same project - I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in 2018. Another thing on the come-up in 2017 was full twisting kong-gainers and castaways; think Joey Adrian at the NAPC, Travis Verkaik at Daggettween, or the enigmatic ‘Uro’ in the incredible video above.
It doesn’t end there though; Calen Chan definitely deserves a mention for throwing a full-in-back-out at this years AoM, onto concrete no less. Just a few weeks later Calen went onto land what I don’t hesitate to believe is the first ever scoot full-in-full-out at his home gym in Utah. But it wasn’t just acrobatic progression on the agenda; Joe Hendo’s recent neverending stride mission also gets a mention for being probably one of the most impressive feats of parkour endurance of the year! It was definitely the year of ‘sending it’.
Someone who absolutely deserves to be spoken about is Alexander ‘Blue Shorts’ Titarenko. What a meteoric year he’s had; turning up to Santorini in relative obscurity - gaining the nickname ‘Blue Shorts’ through the attention he gained training (throwing double after double) on the beach before the qualifiers. To Art of Motion 2017 champion. To most excitedly anticipated athlete at the Air Wipp Competition - and technically doing the highest scoring run of that competition too! (His first run scored more points than the winning final run). Massive congratulations to Alexander, we all look forward to seeing a lot more of him next year.
The women’s competition at this year’s Air Wipp Challenge was another huge milestone for the sport. If it wasn’t one of the first ever fully fledged women’s parkour competitions, then it was certainly the most legitimate incarnation of one to date. To top it all off, the competition was won by 13 year old Elise Bickley - the youngest competitor. Her run pushed female freerunning forward massively, and it was such a feel good moment for all who got to witness it. Amazing job, Elise. You can read more about the Air Wipp Challenge here.
There’s no way I wasn’t going to mention Tempest Freerunning turning 10 years old! We’re getting towards that era where the first wave of parkour companies are starting to reach this milestone, and it’s no wonder Tempest have stood the test of time. They put Los Angeles on the map with their classic video ‘I FREERUN LA’ all those years ago, and have gone on to build an expanding empire of incredible gyms across California. They’ve made an incredible impact to the culture of freerunning in the US and beyond, and have always been brave enough to take a risk on ambitious projects like the Pro Takeover. They certainly deserve our appreciation for being a part of our ecosystem. Thanks guys, here’s to another 10.
And finally just for fun; 2017 marks the year where humanoid robots started training parkour. Terrifying, right? - I wonder how many years it will be until robots are better than humans at moving. That Boston Dynamics hardware, combined with Google’s DeepMind reinforcement learning software… who knows what the future of movement could look like? In fact, I plan on looking into this further at some point, so watch out for that article!
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So there you have it, that was pretty much 2017 in the world of Parkour and Freerunning. Thank you all for being a part of this journey we’re all on together; watching our young sport grow stronger, especially now as it goes through the challenges of adolescence. Obviously this only scratches the surface, and you may have interpreted the year very differently - did I miss anything huge that happened this year? Let me know in the comments.
*Photo Credits in order; DCMS, Surrey Advertiser, Calen Chan, Drew Taylor, Armand Lenoir, Alexander Titarenko, Mickael Tannus, Bri La Flair.