Vaulting to victory at parkour contest

Vaulting to victory at parkour contest
Jowenson Ian Sy (above) was the winner in the Superfly Parkour Showdown 2013 on Sunday. Contestants Takuya Ueno (above far left), 24 and Muhammad Rusyd Nasr Hamdan, 17, showing off their parkour skills.

SINGAPORE - Parkour, a sport in which participants leap, vault and somersault their way across a space, was in the spotlight in an unusual competition here over the weekend.

Billed as Singapore's first parkour challenge, the Superfly Parkour Showdown 2013 was held at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre on Sunday.

Filipino parkour practitioner Jowenson Ian Sy, 24, beat 22 competitors to win the competition, which was a masterful display of acrobatics, speed and daring.

The discipline, which originated in France, uses creativity and athleticism to reinterpret and navigate an urban environment. Parkour started in Singapore about a decade ago, and currently has over 100 active practitioners here. The competition, which was organised by parkour academy Superfly Monkey Dragons, featured practitioners, also called traceurs, going up against one another in five tests of strength, speed, balance and agility.

The showdown was part of License 2 Play, a three-day gaming and lifestyle event organised by Sphere Exhibits, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings. Now in its fifth year, the event drew 92,000 visitors, compared to 80,000 last year. Sy's prize was a pair of Ollo shoes, worth $99, which are specially designed for parkour, as well as $100 worth of food vouchers.

A traceur for four years, he is in Singapore studying sports coaching at the International Sports Academy. He says of his winning routine: "I actually didn't prepare so much, I was just here to play around with friends. I'm used to the jumping, and looking at the course, I know what I can do."

During the final round of the competition, participants were given a minute to leap, vault and somersault over wooden obstacles and metal scaffolding in a 10m by 10m arena in a freestyle parkour routine. While all the traceurs exhibited a high level of skill, daring and precision, Sy stole the show with his daring laches (swinging from one bar to another) and powerful backflips, as well as his sense of fluidity and grace.

The traceurs, who hailed from Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan as well as Singapore, were judged on creativity, difficulty and flow. The competitors were aged 14 to 24.

"Flow is being able to connect all the movements in one graceful movement, and not stopping and starting," says traceur Derrick Siu, 40, who founded Superfly Monkey Dragons over a year ago.

He also says that despite parkour's fearsome reputation for being a death-defying discipline with dangerous flips and scary stunts, it is a beginner- friendly discipline.

"Parkour is something that is for everybody. A lot of people see the stunts, the big stuff, and they're scared to try it," he says. "But there's also a lot of stuff you can just do on the ground. It's all about learning how to move."

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