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August 21, 2017

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Acrobat crosses roaring Niagara in epic world first

NIAGARA FALLS, Canada -- Cheered on by thousands of spectators, U.S. tightrope walker Nik Wallenda late Friday fulfilled his childhood dream of walking on a tightrope across Niagara Falls and into the history books.

Crowds packed the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border to watch the 33-year-old brave strong winds and heavy spray to walk on a cable suspended around 200 feet (60 meters) up over the biggest waterfall in North America.

After a brief prayer, Wallenda climbed on the cable and headed from New York to Canada. With the aid of a long balancing pole, Wallenda carefully found his footing along the lengthy cable and maintained a laser-like focus on his task throughout.

The hair-raising walk took 25 minutes, less than the expected 35 to 40 minutes. He jumped down from the high wire on the Canadian side at 10:40 p.m. (0220 GMT).

The event was televised by the U.S. network ABC with a five-second delay.

Wallenda wore a waterproof outfit and suede-soled slippers especially designed by his mother. Powerful TV lights focused on him the whole way, as millions of people around the world followed the event on television.

The acrobat had a two-way radio and a small earpiece, and was able to communicate with his father, identified by ABC as Terry Troffer.

"My God, it's incredible, it's breathtaking," Wallenda said soon after starting his quest.

He later reported being "very wet."

"This is so physical, not only mental but physical," Wallenda said. "Fighting the wind isn't easy. I feel my hands are going numb."

Wallenda's father gave him words of encouragement throughout the walk.

"You're doing good. Take your time," said Troffer, whom ABC described as the event safety coordinator.

The crowd went wild when Wallenda reached the Canadian side of the Falls.

Still on the high wire, Wallenda kneeled briefly on the cable and waved to the roaring crowd.

At ABC's insistence, Wallenda was attached to a harness that would have allowed him to climb back onto the high wire if he slipped and fell.

Soon after arriving in Canada, Wallenda called his grandmother on a mobile phone. "Hey Oma, I love you," he told her. Wallenda said he had promised to call as soon as he completed the feat because she couldn't be there.

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