Team Farang’s very own Dominic Di Tommaso has been enthralling us all with his brazen style of movement and larger than life personality for a number of years now. We’ve become accustomed to seeing him frontflip Friday his way around the globe - from Sydney to Shanghai, to Santorini. But it wasn’t always this way; this is how Dom went from garbage collection man to Red Bull sponsored athlete.
**WARNING: Disturbing image of an injury ahead.**
Dom did the majority of his growing up in suburban Sydney after moving from Brisbane when he was 13. He had parents that were willing to go that extra mile to support anything he wanted to pursue, and by his own admission didn’t have to worry about very much. At school, however, Dom was a bit of a lone-wolf and struggled to find the experience stimulating on any level - a feeling I think a lot of parkour people can relate to. The combination of his boredom and highly extroverted personality would repeatedly lead him to trouble.
Dom always had an affinity for movement though, and actually discovered parkour whilst at performing arts school - where his primary focuses at the time were the more graceful arts of figure skating and ballet. In fact, Dom was very good at figure skating and was competing and training full time. He won his first Australian championships at age 9, and by the time he was 16 had won 3 more, and was starting to look into international competition!
But in terms of parkour, sometimes a YouTube video or two is all it takes to spark something big! At school one day Dom and his friend were watching ninja videos, which eventually led them to the classic ‘crazy russian climbers’ video, featuring a young Oleg Vorslav. He was so inspired that he went out on his lunch break and just “tried it”. He formed an instant connection with the sport. His imagination was captured by the constant movement, and the possibilities for athletic expression.
For the first 18 months of his training, Dom kinda did his own thing, occasionally roping his friends in to join. It wasn’t until he started attending a gymnastics centre - standard parkour procedure in the late 00’s - that he met other serious traceurs for the first time. He quickly bonded with the Sydney parkour scene and was invited to help teach classes soon after. Connections with the wider Australian scene inevitably followed.
Dom’s first international parkour adventure came a couple of years later. Only 19 at the time, he flew himself out to Bangkok and met up with a much less established Team Farang - as well as a couple of the German guys who would later go on to form Ashigaru. He didn’t know it at the time, but It was a glimpse into his future. It provided him a lot of insight into the emerging international scene. If you look closely you can spot Dom throughout the Farang classic: The City.
Back home, however, the responsibilities of adult life were stacking up. To pay his way Dom got a full-time job as a garbage man right after he got back from Thailand. Every day come rain or shine he’d be up at 4:30 am. During a shift, he would load the contents of up to 1,000 bins into the truck, and often run around 20km by the end of the day. But he continued to progress as a parkour athlete - training in the afternoons after work. Dom said that working as a garbo was a positive experience overall, as it brought some structure to his life and gave him a super high level of fitness that he has retained to this day.
But there were some major drawbacks to working such a physical job. Running the best part of a half-marathon a day, on top of regular parkour training burns a serious amount of calories, calories that you need to put back into your body. Dom was struggling to keep weight on, because there’s only so much your stomach can digest in a day. There was also one time where he nearly lost two of his fingers in the clamping mechanism on the back of the garbage truck. It certainly wasn’t an easy living.
Over the next few years, Dom continued to balance his job with training and gradually started to produce more videos with Crew42. In 2014 he entered a video competition and earned a ‘wildcard’ place at summer’s 4TLOM jam in The Netherlands. This was his first real opportunity to get out to Europe… but airfare is expensive! But in a beautiful show of community spirit, AAPES did a fundraiser to help him raise the money to go to the event - a clear sign the Australian community believed in him.
Dom spent the whole summer in Europe going to various events, training hard, and building his social media presence. By the time he made it out to Santorini to take part in the qualifiers for the AoM, he was ready to go hard. He qualified through to the main event, but unfortunately injured his shoulder during his run, and therefore didn’t progress to the finals. But not all was lost; Red Bull directly contacted him to express their appreciation for how hard he threw down and encouraged him to try again next year.
Dom’s increased exposure through 2014 led to a much busier 2015. He attended even more international events such as the LCG in Singapore, and the Street Stunts Comp in Vigo, along with all the usual favourites. Bringing his signature fat diving front flips with him wherever he went. But all this travel was starting to put a strain on his employer, and Dom was getting more and more uncomfortable with inconveniencing his boss so much.
Santorini 2015 came around and Dom put on a great performance; qualifying for the main competition, and then doing a solid run he was proud of. It had been another good year for him, and it was at this point that Farang became explicit with their interest in bringing him onboard as a team member in the coming year. This gave Dom an idea…
Back in Australia, and armed with his increased social media following, Dom approached AAPES and asked for a small salary in return for promoting the brand. This combined with the salary and support of being a Farang athlete meant that as of the start of 2016 he was in a position to have a go at living purely off his parkour income - a huge step that very few in the world of parkour have been able to take.
Although financially tight at times, Dom’s first year as a professional parkour athlete went well. He was traveling more than ever; with multiple jobs and competitions out in China - sometimes as an athlete, sometimes as a judge, and one time even as a host. There was also an appearance at Camp Woodward in America, and a couple of long stints out in Europe and Thailand. Late in 2016 the idea of being a Red Bull sponsored athlete still wasn’t really on Dom’s radar - contact had been sporadic since that message he received in 2014.
But the beginning of 2017 changed all that; Sebastian Zeitelhack (the athlete manager who signed Malaysian freerunner Abudi Alsagoff to Red Bull) relocated to the Australian Red Bull offices. Jason knew Sebastian from his own work with Red Bull, so had already put in a good word for Dom. So when Sebastian arrived in Australia he was instantly keen to meet Dom and try and bring him onboard. Dom and he had a meeting where he explained that Red Bull wasn't really thinking of taking on any more freerunning athletes at the moment, but he was gonna see what he could do. Life went on as normal.
Fast forward six months to August and Dom gets a call from Sebastian saying that all the pushing had paid off, and head office was keen to bring him onboard as soon as possible! And there you have it, the trajectory of a kid training during his lunch breaks at school, to full-time garbage man, to Red Bull sponsored athlete.
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Despite how well his freerunning career is going, Dom has managed to remain humble and level-headed. I recall a brief conversation we had in Sweden where we were laughing about how overly-grandiose the whole ‘zero to hero’ narrative seems in this context. I can still remember this quote;
“I literally just went from touching people’s trash to touching people’s walls.”
I don’t think it was just his work ethic; but also a combination of his patience, and his appreciation for wherever he was at the time that made his journey unfold in the way it did. I asked Dom if he had any advice for someone who was working a fulltime job, but wanted to make parkour a bigger part of their life. This is what he said:
“First and foremost take a realistic look at the opportunities that are out there and think about if you can fulfill that. But also, if you want something work hard at it every single day and don’t let up… literally every single day, you’re not going to see progress for like… months at a time! You might not even notice it, and then suddenly it’s happening. Unless you’re working hard towards that cause every single day then things are going to come up and distract you from that main goal. So you need to keep pushing, and keep producing what you think is going to be noticed, or what you think is going to get you out there.
But yeah, I don’t know… I haven’t got a magic recipe or ingredients, there’s no secret to it, you just need to work your ass off and keep working. Even now I don’t feel like it’s a complete cycle; it’s not like I've just ‘made it’ because I’m a Red Bull sponsored athlete now. There’s so much more work to do, there’s so much more than I think I can give my body, and give to the sport. So… yeah! Keep trying, cunts!”
Hopefully, Dom’s story can help inspire you to keep on trucking despite what may appear to be very slow progress. After all, Dom was working as a garbage man for nearly three years before his international parkour career started to show real signs of progress. So keep your chin up, and your shins cut!