From Yamakashi to the Olympics, parkour tries to overcome the obstacles of the Olympics

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Paris (AFP) – Conceived in the late 1980s by a young suburban group known as the Yamakashi, parkour is today a sport attached to gym spheres to try out Olympic adventures.

Even if hopes for the 2024 Paris Olympics fade, the dream will continue until 2028.

Art of Movement, Parkour, Freerunning: This practice has several names and has a more or less artistic side. And just one quest to overcome obstacles with your body.

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It all started when a group of 80’s teenagers near Evry set up an acrobatic challenge to the concrete structures of this town in Essonne. Their story was consecrated in 2001 in a film named “Yamakashi” (“strong mind, strong man, strong body” in Zaillian), followed by “Banryu 13” (2004).

Among the nine founding members are brothers Williams and Chau Bell, their cousin David Bell, and Charles Perrière.

“It’s been 30 years!” bellows AFP Perrière, who is now in charge of parkour for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), which joined the world gymnastics federation in December 2018.

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“It was a way of life. It didn’t distinguish between activities and sports, it mixed them. Apparently in this world things are very structured and have to fit in boxes. We call it a sport, and we are basically a competitive version of our activity that is not competitive at all, but aimed at personal development,” explains Perrière, adding, “The new I want to live up to the expectations of generations.”

Target gym

Building on what has been happening for years at the acclaimed International Extreme Sports Festival (Fise), a World Cup circuit has been set up under the patronage of the FIG. Spaces, modules and notes for skateboard parks, freestyle BMX and more.

But tensions soon arose among parkour purists who felt betrayed and didn’t quite recognize themselves in their gym memberships.

In 2011, one of the founders, Sidney Grosprêtre, told AFP: “I am against the vision of a performance-centered activity. FIG is responsible for global activities without consulting anyone in the world. We felt a little robbed,” said the French Parkour Federation (FPK), who wanted to keep their hands on it, but it was “David against Goliath.”

In the world of gymnastics, it’s also not easy to include Tracer – the name given to parkour practitioners – and gymnasts believe it’s definitely not gymnastics.

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Results of the race: Parkour failed to become an Olympic sport at the 2024 Paris Games.

evil for good

“It’s a shame because I would have written great stories in Paris, but I keep telling myself that when I get back there, I’ll be able to grow just right,” Perrière relativizes.

“It was a disappointment. I know the stakes associated with this end. There was sports politics, there were choices to be made. Ultimately, it’s a celebration in disguise.” It would be nice to go back to, but it’s best to stay there,” he defends.

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19-year-old French parkour prodigy Lilou-Ruel advocates joining the Olympic programme.

“It’s good that we didn’t make it to the Olympics in Paris. We weren’t ready to co-exist with gymnastics. 2028 is the right year,” the gym federation’s initiative.

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Perrière strongly believes in this marriage. To convey to as many people as possible the value of parkour that is necessary for everyday life: surpassing oneself and courage.