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When he was a child, Alain Robert’s heroes were some of the most famous rock-climbers of all time. To his parents despair he decided to become a top climber. He learnt how to move, how to handle the ropes. When he was 12, he once forgot his keys and climbed eight floors to get home through the window.
Alain used to train on the cliffs around Valence, his home town in the south of France. He became a top climber through personal motivation, taking calculated risks and mastering his fear. He became so proficient that he decided to climb solo, with his bare hands and with no ropes for protection. If he fell, he would die, pure and simple.
Having climbed the most extreme cliff faces he had two serious accidents in 1982, falling over 15-meters head first in one fall, remaining in a coma for 5 days and enduring multiple fractures : cranium, nose, wrists, elbows, pelvis and heels. The prognosis was serious; his doctors said he would never climb again. The after effects of the injuries included vertigo, caused by disease affecting the inner ear. The French national health organisation pronounced him disabled up to 60%.
A year later, Alain Robert got back to the cliffs and soon regained the top level title, stronger than ever. In 1991 Patrick Edlinger gave him an award for his performance at the Janssen’s Festival. Two years later, Juan Antonio Samaranche gave him the IOC (International Olympic Committee) award for his performance. He also achieved a world record for the most extreme solo performance, in the gorge of the Verdon (south of France).
Sector –a sponsor, specialist in extreme sports, adventure- offered him to shoot a documentary. They suggested that he climb skyscrapers and in 1994, Alain climbed his very first skyscraper, in Chicago, and the Urban Climber legend was born.
Alain realized that he enjoyed climbing the seemingly impossible; the feats also offered him a chance to earn a living. He scoured the world searching for skyscrapers and climbing them, he also incurred jail sentences many times as the climbs invariably occurred without the authorisation of the buildings owners. In the course of his unlikely career he has met presidents and prisoners, kings and shanty town folks.
Despite being known for his bold ascents, he often climbs to collect money for charity. In 1997, he climbed -without authorisation- the world’s tallest skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur.
The impact on the media was so great that Sabah Foundation asked him to climb its building in Borneo. With the government’s authority, the event grew extensively, drawing a crowd of 15,000 people. The event raised over $150,000.
In Paris, the association ADT Quart Monde requested his presence for a climb, to promote the opening of the flats built for the capital’s homeless. The event drew the nation’s most senior figures, including Mrs. Bernadette Chirac and Mrs. Geneviève de Gaulle.
In eight years, Alain Robert has climbed over 100 skyscrapers and mythical monuments around the world. His greatest success so far has been the ascent of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi with over 100,000 spectators!
To him, a city is like a range of mountains, with one little difference, there will always be new skyscrapers under construction.
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