Argentina’s rising stars in parkour, led by Juano Fernandez, have been inspiring children with initiation workshops at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 as they look to showcase the sport to a wider audience.
With curious children watching, Fernandez executes a back flip, a side somersault and some jumps over boxes as he makes his way through the area at Urban Park where the ‘Parkour BA’ team are running initiation workshops. Vaulting and flipping, livewire Fernandez is showcasing a sport – in which athletes find creative ways to navigate through a landscape by running, climbing and jumping – that he believes should be included in the Olympic Games.
“Our sport is different from other sports and even from any other gymnastics discipline,” he said. “It goes beyond the rules of performing the perfect somersault. We learn to be free and invent new things every day. I want to inspire people and I want to help them to surpass their fears.”
Fernandez and his teammates, Juan Cruz Perez, Abel Garay, Ismael Garay and Micaela Buono Pugh, put the children through a short warm-up, before giving them their first introduction to rolls, jumps and landings. They train on soft mats rather than the hard surfaces where parkour athletes perform. “People tend to think that parkour athletes are crazy, that it is too dangerous to do this,” Fernandez said. “But we want to show that it isn’t. We teach the children cool stuff without them getting hurt or being scared. We start from scratch and teach them the essentials.”
“I can understand that,” he says. “Of course, it is quite scary at first, but when you know how to do the skills the fear goes. But then you start to learn new things and the fear comes back. It is a vicious circle.”
Fernandez discovered parkour about nine years ago. “I learned my first rolls and jumps via tutorials on the internet. It taught me how to do them without getting hurt. After watching a lot of videos, I just went to the park and played around. “I was pretty scared at first, but at some point every part of the city became a playground for me.”
The sport, born on the streets of France in the 1990s, is booming in Argentina and, increasingly, worldwide. It has been recognised by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and the first Parkour World Cup events took place this year, so Fernandez hopes it is time for the sport to continue to grow.
The parkour initiation workshops are open to the public on Tuesday 16 October (09:00 to noon) and Wednesday 17 October (13:00 to 18:00) at the Sport Initiation Zone in Urban Park.