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September 27, 2017

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Extreme sport goes off the wall in Quebec

QUEBEC CITY--One by one the athletes plummet from a 5-meter (15-feet) wall, land on a trampoline, spring back upward and then spin up to 360 degrees before bouncing off a side wall and striking a pose.

This is not gymnastics or acrobatics but "wall trampoline" — an emerging sport with a growing fanbase that hopes it will make a grand entrance on the world stage at the X Games, the annual extreme sports event, next year.

Under the tall arches of Saint-Esprit de Quebec church, the "bouncers," as they call themselves, climb on to a parapet before falling toward their target and ricocheting back and forth off the wall as many times as they please.

The wall, for a few seconds, can make gravity seem non-existent.

Rooted in modern circus acrobatics, the new discipline mixes trampoline with Parkour, the highly physical sport that involves vaulting, running and climbing to move as quickly as possible in urban environments such as rooftops.

Wall trampoline proponents say its revolutionary, "free style" is liberating.

"Traditional trampoline is too rigid. Adding a wall, creates four times more possibilities," says Julien Roberge, 23, a professional acrobat and convert.

Wall trampoline has been a success in Canada's Quebec province, which is the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil and other circus troupes.

But Roberge and his contemporaries see its future develop far beyond the big top and into the realm of extreme sports, accessible to all.

They have already asked for it to be considered for the next X Games, alongside BMX racing, skateboarding and rollerblading.

"Our movements are similar, our acrobatics are a bit more classic, but the heights that we reach are impressive," says Jonathan Julien, an acrobatics student at Quebec's circus school.

"If we train with the idea of competing in an extreme sport in mind, we'll begin to develop more complex movements and the difficulty will go up a notch," adds Roberge.

Already Roberge and Julien can jump almost 10 meters, allowing them to perform triple spins and other complex moves.

Video demonstrations have gone viral online and sparked interest in wall trampoline, in contrast with when the sport first appeared in Montreal in the 1980s, but it did not really take off at the time.

"I was a student at the national circus school in Montreal," recalls Jeannot Painchaud, president of Cirque Eloize. "Friends and I used to pile up mattresses next to a trampoline, bounce on our back and ricochet off the wall."

"I can't say for sure ... by I think we were pioneers of the sport."

A decade later, Cirque du Soleil would popularize it in one of its spectacles.

Three years ago, Quebec's circus school added trampoline wall to its curriculum due to demand from the entertainment industry.

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