The athletes of today's increasingly urban world aren't just testing the limits of their bodies, they're completely redefining their arena of choice. "Free running" is a fresh new sport that's launched itself from within all the daily surroundings of your average cityscape - think concrete curbs, steel railings, parking structures and brick alleyways. Despite the relatively mundane surroundings, however, the "free-runner" is a breed all his own. Part urban acrobat and part artist, these guys meld body and soul for jaw-dropping performances of agility and grace, leaping, swinging, and back-flipping their way down the same streets and sidewalks most of us merely stroll.
Levi Meeuwenberg in Detroit
Free running is unique from other urban sports that may at first seem completely synonymous. While "parkour" focuses exclusively on swift and efficient movement through space-like using your city streets as an obstacle course-"free running" adds the tricks and aesthetic importance of breakdancing. This fusion of values is what makes "free running" such a compelling and new hybrid.
Until recently, free-runners performed their art outside the public eye - there was no call for attention here, no breakdancing in Times Square. The movement's rise to fame mimicked that of graffiti. Urban expression but in a purely physical form. It's possible you may have caught a fleeting glimpse once - someone hurdling benches through city parks or planted one-handed on a high rise's concrete ledge - but with their capriciousness and speed, it's doubtful you've gotten a good hard look at the impressive breadth of their gymnastic repertoire. The movement was hard to follow, shrouded in obscurity.
Patrick Morawetz in Detroit
Enter: Red Bull and MINI. The energy of Red Bull, coupled with MINI's ongoing dedication to support young talent and the Creative Use of Space, makes free-running the perfect candidate for yet another breakthrough joint venture. Now that the limelight has swung in their direction, the best of the free running best can garner the cheering crowds and ample praise they've long deserved. No longer a blur, it's time to see these guys in focus.
The "Red Bull Art of Motion" photo and film crews have gathered quite a few impressive shots since the event kicked off its ‘round the world tour this March in London. From that moonlit spring eve on the Thames, the Art of Motion free runners have catapulted themselves across the entire globe, visiting Yokohama, Sao Paolo, Detroit, and most recently Kuwait and the Greek isle of Santorini. See coverage of the entire year's events below.
We have to confess, however, that all the while these free runners have been continent hopping, they've been getting a little extra lift at every competition... But don't worry, nobody's doing any cheating here. MINI brings the boost this time, by way of its own sporty structure. Based on the MINI philosophy celebrating "Creative Use of Space", the athletes make use of an actual MINI within the course - executing special stunts and all manner of hip acrobatic moves, vaulting from the roof like a spring loaded launch pad. What urban environment would be complete without one?
Marvin Ross, of USA, "Sickest Trick" winner in Detroit
Never shy of going that extra mile, MINI found one more way to contribute to the event series. The "MINI Sickest Trick Award" honors the one distinguished athlete who leaves everyone in the crowd staggered by a display of truly prodigious skill. To the victor go these spoils, along with some considerable bragging rights.
But as free running star Levi Meeuwenberg explains, "Red Bull Art of Motion" and both parkour and free running aren't always about winning. Everyone is of course competitive, but Meeuwenberg reminds us that it's more like a salon of different styles. He sums up the spirit of the Art of Motion series like this:
"Free running opens your eyes to the potential in every space and allows you to see that its potential can never be exhausted, because every person comes with a new perspective, a new way of looking at it, a new way of approaching it. And so every meeting-every collision between a creative person and a space-is going to create something new. So we aren't limited by our spaces. They're our canvas and our movements are like paints. When we apply our movement to the canvas of a space, we create our work of art."
Levi Meeuenberg at Red Bull Art of Motion in Detroit
Check out the video below of the first event that took place in London, and join in our excitement about all the action to come.
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