New territory for gymnastics

As Pedro Leon Gomez - or "Phosky" to his friends - tumbled across the line of a stage in downtown Hiroshima, Parkour history had been made.

The Spaniard became the first ever World Cup champion in the newly created gymnastic discipline.

Leon Gomez took the honours in front of thousands of spectators in the Japanese city, as the FIG Parkour World Cup made its debut as part of the FISE (Festival International des Sports Extrêmes) World Series.

This is new territory for gymnastics, moving out of the sports hall and into the street.

So what can we expect? And how did we get here?

Parkour: the art of moving

The first thing to note is that there is not a sequin in sight.

Instead, baggy sweat pants, sneakers and black t-shirts are de rigueur for competitors.

But when the competition starts, the sheer athleticism of those taking part is instantly striking.

This is a sport that combines agility, lactic acid-inducing strength and incredible spatial awareness.

Blink of an eye

Crucial decisions on how to tackle a specially-constructed 40 metre course must be taken in the blink of an eye.

The Speed-Run competition sees athletes racing against the clock.

Leaping from the stage, they take on a series of obstacles - walls, ramps and rails that mimic the sport's origins.

The Freestyle event is judged by a panel, who assess athletes' performance based on criteria such as control, efficiency and style.

One of the pioneers of Parkour, David Belle, describes it as "the art of moving through urban environments, taking advantage of all the constructions and obstacles that were not originally created for this purpose."

It's fast, fresh, accessible and easy to understand.  The Hiroshima event was a huge success.

“I didn’t think the public would be so receptive," enthused Belle afterwards, "there was an immediate connection and it created a wonderfully positive energy."

Origins

Belle is now President of FIG's Parkour Commission and is one of the key figures of the sport.

Together with his father, a Parisian firefighter, Belle helped conceptualise Parkour in the 1990s.

In a relatively short space of time, Parkour has come on in leaps and bounds.

After workshops at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer two years ago, a connection was made with gymnastics world governing body FIG.

A couple of test events followed in 2017 before the inception of the FIG World Cup series.

Thirty athletes representing 20 countries were present in Hiroshima, with another two events scheduled.

The next one will be Montpellier in France in May before the first ever FIG Parkour World Cup champions are crowned in Chengdu, China next November.

A first FIG World Championship is in the pipeline for 2020.

Aims

It's the youthful, urban nature of Parkour that holds so much appeal.

FIG President Morinari Watanabe admitted the Hiroshima event left him surprised at just how popular it was.

Watanabe is already wanting to explore other areas the sport can make its influence felt.

"We can take elements from this positive experience and use them in the world of Gymnastics," he said.

The moves to incorporate the sport into the wider framework of gymnastics has not been without its detractors.

Some believe it is a 'misappropriation', a move away from the sport's roots.

But in their agreement with the International Parkour Federation, FIG have promised to do their utmost to protect the unique culture of Parkour.

The athletes seem to have successfully bridged the gap. An adrenaline-charged journey awaits.

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