Luci Romberg - Extreme Agility Super Human Challenge


Luci Romberg - Extreme Agility

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We're all used to walking on the ground,

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but imagine if you could use the rooftops as your highway!

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Imagine if you could jump from building to building,

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balance on anything, you would be a superhero.

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A superhero like Catwoman,

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who uses her cat-like reflexes, balance,

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and flexibility to fight evil.

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But I've heard of a real person with unbelievable agility,

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a woman with supreme balance who always lands on her feet.

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A real-life Catwoman.

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Luci Romberg became a champion gymnast

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when she was just a teenager, but didn't stop there.

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Luci took to the streets to learn the art of free running.

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She became so incredibly daring and agile

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that she was soon spotted by movie makers.

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Luci now works as a stuntwoman in Hollywood.

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Tim has travelled all the way to California in the USA

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to find out if Luci is a real-life Catwoman.

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Wow, Luci, I'm so excited to meet you. Are you Catwoman?

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You know what? I try to be,

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I just like jumping around and having fun, so...

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For anyone who's not seen free running before,

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can you just give us a very brief outline of what free running is?

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Yeah, sure, so basically, free running is about efficient

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movement, getting from point A to point B as fast as you can,

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and adding flips and style and creative movements.

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I consider myself a free runner just cos I like to flip.

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Would you be up for doing three Super Tests so that we can see your

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amazing abilities, and to see just how like Catwoman you really are?

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-It sounds awesome!

-Let's do it!

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This is Dr Megan John.

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She's an expedition doctor and has kept people alive while they've

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attempted some of the most dangerous activities you can imagine.

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She's created three Super Tests to try and find out

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what makes Luci Romberg so special.

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Wow! What is this place?

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Well, Tim, I brought you and Luci to the Tempest Free Running Academy.

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It's where people like Luci come to train

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and study how to do free running.

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Free running is extremely dangerous, it involves jumping, leaping,

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landing, flipping and spinning in mid-air over streets

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and buildings. It would be easy to land badly and break something.

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Because of the risks involved,

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Dr Megan has chosen the Free Running Academy for Super Test One,

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as it's got special springy floors for landing.

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One of the really important things about free running is

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the ability to land from heights.

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You're not afraid of heights, are you, Tim?

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Well, I don't like heights, but, you know... Why?

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Super Test One is going to test how hard Tim and Luci land

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while jumping from different heights.

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They're going to start by jumping from a block almost a metre high.

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The next block they jump from will be twice as high.

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And finally, if Dr Megan thinks it's safe, they will jump

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from a wall standing an incredibly dangerous three metres high.

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-Do you think you're willing to give it a go?

-Yeah, sounds fun.

-Let's go!

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When you land, your feet push down on the ground

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and the ground pushes back on your feet.

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This pushing is called force.

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Dr Megan will be using special equipment called

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accelerometers to measure the force that goes through Luci

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and Tim's bodies when they hit the ground.

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When you take a really big jump, so big impact, which I can measure by

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just wiggling it here, you see I get a really big change on the graph.

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-That's cool.

-I'm going to be attaching one to your ankle

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and one to your lower back, and we'll see how your bodies cope.

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Are they the two areas that take the most impact? The ankles and back?

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Exactly, and if the force is too great, then you could risk breaking

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a bone, so I need to see exactly how much force you're getting.

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I also have a slow-motion camera that I'm going to be

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pointing at you guys when you do your landing.

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That means I can look at it all in really slow motion in more

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detail and see how different areas of your body are moving

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to cushion your landing.

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The higher up you jump from,

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the more likely you are to hurt yourself.

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If you don't land properly, you could sprain your ankles or knees.

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If you land on a hard surface like concrete, you could break

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a bone or even damage your spine. This could leave you paralysed.

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With a really bad landing, you could hit your head

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and possibly injure your brain, and you could die.

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One metre high for the first challenge. Are you ready to go, Tim?

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I'm ready to go. Let's do this.

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Even if you are lucky enough to have a special springy floor at home,

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don't try this - you could hurt yourself!

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-So are you ready, Tim?

-Yep.

-And jump!

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-How did that feel?

-I just sort of went really rigid.

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Yeah, you let your chest drop a little bit

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so you might have a little bit more impact on your back.

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So looking at the data from the one metre jump you did, Tim,

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I can see already there's a lot of pressure going

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through your ankles, your knees and your lower back.

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Tim's bad landing means a lot of force went through his body.

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When you land after a jump, the force of the landing travels

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up through your bones, into your legs, and up into your back.

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At the end of each bone, there's a hard, slippery substance

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and it's called cartilage.

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The cartilage is filled with squishy gel which acts like a cushion,

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stopping your bones banging together and getting damaged.

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But if you land very hard,

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the cartilage isn't thick enough to stop your bones from breaking.

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So, Luci, you're all rigged up with equipment and ready to go.

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-Are you happy?

-Yeah, of course.

-And jump.

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Luci, you made that look so easy and elegant.

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It was amazing watching the landing cos you landed and went right down,

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and you even used your hands, it seems, to take some of the force.

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Yes, so I mean, basically, my idea was to spread it out

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through my entire body so that everything was taking the impact.

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Whereas I just landed on my toes and everything else went rigid.

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I've already got the data from your jump, Luci, and comparing it to

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Tim, I can see that your body's taking a lot less impact,

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a lot less force is running through your ankles and your lower back.

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Tim's landing put a lot of force on his body.

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The next jump is twice as high.

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If Tim doesn't land more softly, he could really hurt himself here.

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And I must remember that when you landed from one metre,

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you went right down, so I'm going to try that.

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Yeah, yeah. I mean, just land as quietly and softly as you can.

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-OK.

-The less impact the better, right?

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-Yeah, the less impact the better.

-You got it. You can do it.

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This jump is about the height of your front door.

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Now, that is really high!

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If Tim doesn't land well here, he could easily break a bone.

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Careful, Tim!

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The forces through your body will be twice what they were before, Tim.

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-You ready?

-I'm ready.

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Jump!

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How did that feel, Tim?

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Yeah, I made it. It wasn't that clean, I think we'd say.

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-I think it was great!

-Really?

-Yeah!

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Especially for your first time, I thought it was really good.

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-I'm impressed.

-Well, I didn't injure myself, that's a win.

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-Success, right?

-Yeah, I'm a winner!

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Despite Tim's new technique,

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this landing put a dangerous amount of force through his body.

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But Luci is used to jumping from much higher.

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And three, two, one.

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Jump!

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Whoa! That was cool.

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And Dr Megan's graph shows that her incredible roll has

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cushioned her landing.

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Tim, your body is taking a lot of force going through your ankles

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and your lower back.

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Luci, I'm still happy that your body is coping with this really well.

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It must be your technique.

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As you fall through the air, you get faster and faster.

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So the higher the jump, the faster you'll be travelling

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when you hit the ground.

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The next jump in Super Test One is a terrifying three metres high.

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If Tim wants to attempt it, he needs to need to learn Luci's technique.

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Basically, what we do is, we aim with our shoulder,

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we call it a PK or a shoulder roll.

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So we aim with our shoulder, you want to keep your chest down.

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I use my arms too to cushion my body, too.

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OK, so you're in control of everything right the way through

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that, aren't you? From the minute you're there,

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to the minute you're standing up again.

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I try. You want to try it? Practice makes perfect, right?

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-There you go, good.

-That felt good.

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-How that feel?

-That felt really good. Yeah, that's really good.

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I felt I rolled across, across...

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Yeah, you didn't hit your head or your spine.

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-No, I didn't hit my head at all!

-Cool.

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Performing a roll like this allows you to spread

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the force of landing over your whole body.

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When you're falling fast and land on your feet,

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your body stops very suddenly.

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This puts the greatest amount of force on the bones

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and cartilage in your legs and spine.

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But when you land with a roll,

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your body keeps moving and then slows down gradually.

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This allows your body to spread the force.

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Your legs take some of the force first.

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Then your hands, your shoulder and your back take the rest.

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So, Tim, are you ready to go?

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Yeah, let me get this right in my head.

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Land on my toes, roll, go.

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Tim is going to attempt the jump again using Luci's roll technique,

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but if he can't reduce the force,

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Dr Megan will not allow him to jump from three metres.

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-So on my count.

-Yeah.

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Three, two, one,

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and jump!

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Well, it's not graceful.

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Yeah, he's spot-on, it's certainly not graceful,

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but has it reduced the force in his legs and back?

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So I've got the differences in the data between

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when you did the jump with and without the roll.

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The roll certainly reduced the impact

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and the forces on your joints, but even with that, I'm not happy

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for you to do this at three metres, Tim.

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I think there's a very real risk that you could break some bones.

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So, Luci, this one's just for you.

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Yeah, let's do it.

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The final jump is an incredible three metres high

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and a fall from this height could kill you.

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Don't try this at home. Remember, Dr Megan has chosen

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the Free Running Academy because it's got those special,

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springy floors for landing.

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-Are you ready to go?

-Ready.

-So on my count.

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Three, two, one.

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And jump.

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Whoa! Amazingly, from such an unbelievable height,

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Luci flies through the air, landing in the perfect roll.

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Oh, Luci, fantastic.

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It's incredible that you managed to not only to deal with that height,

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but you do it so gracefully, too. So even at three metres, the force

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going through your body, Luci, is less than Tim showed at two.

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I wonder if that's your training, or if it's how your body's built.

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So, how does Luci do it?

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To land perfectly, you need to begin your roll at the exact

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split second your feet start to touch the ground.

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So when you jump, your eyes look to the ground and send messages to

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your brain, and it tries to work how far and how fast you're falling.

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But most of us get it wrong because

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we can't time our landings precisely enough.

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Luci has years of being a gymnast, so her brain has practised

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and learnt to time her roll down to a fraction of a second.

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All the data suggests that Luci's skeleton, her muscles, her tendons,

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her ligaments, have adapted to let her deal with such high forces.

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Actually, Luci can jump from rooftops.

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If an average person jumped off a rooftop,

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the force going through their joints when they landed would be

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so great it could break bones, but Luci's no normal human.

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My landings might not be up to much, but for one person,

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her ability to land from heights saved her life.

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World champion paraglider Ewa Wisnierska

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was practising in Australia.

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She was sucked into a thunderstorm and thrown six miles into the air.

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Unable to breathe properly,

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she passed out in ice-cold temperatures, 40 degrees below zero.

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As the paraglider began hurtling to the ground, she woke up.

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Realising she was falling, Ewa focused quickly.

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Incredibly, her experience and fast reactions meant

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she managed to land safely from a height higher than Mount Everest.

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From certain death, Ewa escaped with only frostbite and swollen legs.

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Tim and Luci have headed over to the beach

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for Dr Megan's next Super Test.

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Tim, to be a free runner, you've got to have great balance and agility,

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so do you think you've got the balance

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and the cat-like ability to get across this bar?

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-I'll try.

-And, Luci, I'm guessing you're going to make this look easy.

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I think it's going to be fun.

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When you balance on something really narrow, your brain needs to

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work extra hard to control all your different muscles.

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So in this Super Test, Dr Megan is going to be looking at what's

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going on in Tim and Luci's brains.

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It's quite hard for me to tell from looking at you two from the outside,

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what's going on inside your brains

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and how hard you're having to concentrate.

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So I've got some really exciting equipment with me today,

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which I'll be fitting the two of you with

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and I'll be seeing how you manage each of the challenges I've set.

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The equipment is going to measure the different types

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of electrical signals being sent out by your brain to your body.

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So if you're concentrating really hard to complete one of the

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challenges I've set you, I'm going to see the red line go higher.

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These bars aren't normally used for balancing on,

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but we've had expert help and used safety equipment to make sure the

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test is done safely, because a fall from even a low height is dangerous.

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Balancing on a narrow beam is tricky, and it's even harder

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when it's high up.

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If your foot slips, you could land on the beam and get bruises,

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cuts or grazes. Losing your balance

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and landing heavily on the ground could break a bone.

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If you fall backwards, your back could land on the beam

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and really damage your spine, possibly leaving you unable to walk.

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Or you could fall and hit your head hard, which could knock you out

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or cause concussion. And concussion can be fatal.

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The first challenge is to crawl along the beam, and Tim's up first.

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So already, even at the low level of the bar,

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the red part of the graph went higher.

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That means he's already having to concentrate quite hard

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to do the challenge.

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The information I'm getting from his band is supporting what

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I thought was going to happen.

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He's really focusing and if you can see that graph,

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the line's jumped right up.

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-How did that feel?

-I really enjoyed the balance

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but I do feel like I'm constantly trying to control muscles

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and keep going and keep balanced and stay on the thing.

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Even from here, I could see you were having to concentrate a lot harder.

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-Right.

-But I've got some great data which supports that.

-OK.

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So, as soon as you got onto that bar, there was a real peak

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in activity and it stayed high for the whole time.

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And if you look here, where you came off, immediately you became

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-more comfortable.

-Yeah.

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Tim's brain needed to work really hard

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to keep him balanced on the bar.

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To balance, you use information from your eyes and your inner ears.

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When you start to wobble, your eyes and ears send signals to eight

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pea-sized areas in the middle of your brain

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called the vestibular nuclei.

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These nuclei work out if you are moving and in which direction.

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If you are falling, they will quickly send signals to your muscles

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to move your body and try to steady yourself.

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Balancing on something narrow takes a lot of brain power.

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So, Luci, you're up next. It's going to be really interesting to see how

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your data compares to Tim's.

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So barely any change at all in the graph with her.

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Whoa, Luci is fast.

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Now, that's just showing off.

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-How you feeling, Luci?

-Good.

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So we've got the data to have a look at.

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It's really interesting cos Tim's was high throughout the whole thing.

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You took that as if you were just walking in the park!

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The next part of Super Test Two

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is even more difficult than the last one.

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So what will Tim think about it?

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I'm not entirely happy about this.

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This is way thinner than it was before to balance on,

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and there's a huge big jump at the end,

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neither of which look like I'm going to be able to do them.

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I've got to be honest, I don't think I'm going to do too well,

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-but I'm going to try.

-Tim, you happy to go?

-Yeah.

-Good luck.

-OK.

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Whoa!

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HE LAUGHS

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Tim's fallen off, but he's not giving up.

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Whoa!

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Oh...OK.

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-It's harder to interpret but...

-Oh, nearly!

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He's getting a lot more confident.

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See what happens as soon as he takes his hand off.

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Yep, a little spike there.

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Oh, dear! Tim is very unstable and in real danger of hurting himself.

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Ow!

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It just shows, you really have to be good at this free running thing.

0:18:230:18:26

I totally clattered my shin on that thin metal bar.

0:18:260:18:30

Ow!

0:18:300:18:31

I've now got a bit of a cut there, and possibly

0:18:310:18:34

a bit of a bruise coming, as well.

0:18:340:18:36

Tim's sixth attempt.

0:18:390:18:41

Every time he's doing this, he's letting another surge of

0:18:440:18:47

adrenalin go, he's getting tireder

0:18:470:18:49

and tireder and, actually, therefore the risk is higher and higher.

0:18:490:18:52

When you're high up, your brain knows you could fall.

0:18:540:18:58

So it makes your body release a chemical called adrenaline.

0:18:580:19:01

Adrenaline makes your heart pump faster, your lungs work harder,

0:19:010:19:05

and your muscles tense up so that your body is ready to

0:19:050:19:08

run away from danger.

0:19:080:19:09

But when you're trying to balance, you don't need to run,

0:19:090:19:12

and too much adrenaline could make your muscles start to shake,

0:19:120:19:15

making it even more difficult to balance.

0:19:150:19:18

Yay!

0:19:200:19:22

OK, next one.

0:19:220:19:24

OK.

0:19:260:19:28

Now I've got to jump across to the wall.

0:19:290:19:32

Oh! Yeah!

0:19:390:19:41

-Well done, Tim!

-Blimey!

-You didn't make it look easy.

0:19:410:19:45

It's not that easy, it's really not that easy.

0:19:450:19:48

It's very, very thin. The balancing, I was rubbish at that.

0:19:480:19:51

Oh, nearly!

0:19:510:19:53

I tried really hard, I kept going up and I kept trying it.

0:19:530:19:56

The jumping - really like the jumping. That was great.

0:19:560:19:59

OK, so Tim completed the test in six attempts, but he used a lot of

0:20:020:20:06

brain power and cut his shin. Can Luci do any better?

0:20:060:20:11

I'm looking forward to seeing how Luci copes.

0:20:120:20:15

-Are you ready, Luci?

-Ready.

-In your own time.

0:20:150:20:18

Ah, this is more like it.

0:20:210:20:23

Luci is perfectly balanced on the bar, and lands softly on the wall.

0:20:230:20:27

Whoa, tiny wobble, there.

0:20:280:20:30

But she's definitely showing incredibly agility.

0:20:300:20:33

She's not going to fall.

0:20:330:20:34

Luci did you even notice you were doing that?

0:20:370:20:39

It was fun, if that's what you're asking.

0:20:390:20:42

You hardly reacted at all on your line, not at all surprisingly.

0:20:420:20:46

And now you're back here, of course. You're more stressed

0:20:460:20:49

-being in my presence than you were doing the challenge.

-Nice.

0:20:490:20:53

It was amazing to see how effortless Super Test Two was for Luci.

0:20:530:20:58

With poise and grace, she breezed through the test. Top marks!

0:20:580:21:03

Megan's balancing challenge was tough,

0:21:060:21:08

but some people do this sort thing for, well, honey.

0:21:080:21:11

The Bayaka tribe live in the forests of Central Africa

0:21:110:21:14

where sweet things are so rare,

0:21:140:21:16

people are willing to risk their lives collecting honey.

0:21:160:21:19

When a beehive is spotted,

0:21:190:21:21

tribesmen climb trees up to 40 metres high to reach it.

0:21:210:21:24

They use incredible cat-like balancing to

0:21:240:21:27

walk along the highest branches without ropes or a harness.

0:21:270:21:30

On reaching the hive, tribesmen scoop out the honeycomb.

0:21:300:21:33

And despite being stung by angry swarms of bees,

0:21:330:21:36

they are agile enough to make it safely back down to the bottom of

0:21:360:21:39

the tree and enjoy their well-earned honey feast with their family.

0:21:390:21:43

Super Test Three, I've brought the two of you to

0:21:470:21:49

Pershing Square in Downtown LA.

0:21:490:21:51

It's a favourite location for free runners.

0:21:510:21:54

You'll see it in movies, even on computer games.

0:21:540:21:57

I want to see what you've learnt, Tim, from Super Test One and Two,

0:21:570:22:01

and Luci, it's going to give you a chance to show us your skills.

0:22:010:22:05

So I've set up a course all around the square.

0:22:050:22:08

In order to complete the course, you'll need to

0:22:080:22:10

use your landings to absorb the shock

0:22:100:22:13

and your balance to get over the obstacles.

0:22:130:22:16

Normally, Luci jumps from great heights,

0:22:160:22:19

but we can't expect Tim to do that safely, so the course that

0:22:190:22:22

Dr Megan's designed is low-level. But there are still some tricky

0:22:220:22:26

challenges, so you shouldn't try anything like this at home!

0:22:260:22:30

They'll start with a long, narrow wall, then

0:22:300:22:33

they'll have a cannon, a concrete square, several more walls,

0:22:330:22:38

a flower pot, and end here at the stone ball.

0:22:380:22:42

-Do you think you can do that, Tim?

-I'll try.

-And Luci?

0:22:420:22:45

-Yeah, it'll be fun!

-Well, let's go then!

0:22:450:22:48

Free runners are judged on how creative their moves are,

0:22:490:22:53

how difficult their moves are, how well they perform their moves,

0:22:530:22:56

and how well they manage to keep moving smoothly.

0:22:560:23:00

Tim and Luci will each try their best to free run the course

0:23:000:23:03

following these goals.

0:23:030:23:04

The best free runners are always really respectful of other

0:23:050:23:08

people's property. So, basically,

0:23:080:23:10

don't go wrecking your neighbour's back garden.

0:23:100:23:12

Up first is Tim.

0:23:160:23:18

Three, two, one, go!

0:23:180:23:21

OK, so Tim has to navigate his way along this very narrow wall.

0:23:250:23:31

He's really having to focus to keep his balance.

0:23:310:23:34

So he's gone off the balance challenge.

0:23:390:23:41

We've got the first big jump coming up.

0:23:410:23:44

Tim did clear the cannon, but I don't think he'd score much for

0:23:480:23:50

creativity or the difficulty of this move.

0:23:500:23:54

So, big peak there of the pressure on his ankles.

0:23:540:23:57

Tim goes through the concrete square with absolutely no flair.

0:24:000:24:03

Come on, Tim!

0:24:030:24:05

He's looking really tired,

0:24:050:24:06

he's really having to focus coming over this jump.

0:24:060:24:09

Woo! that was quite a cool roll he pulled off, there,

0:24:100:24:12

going over the wall. It was a bit clumsy but it would

0:24:120:24:15

get him some points in a free running competition. Well done.

0:24:150:24:18

Tim's now concentrating more on speed than performing

0:24:200:24:22

difficult moves, as he legs it round the course marker.

0:24:220:24:26

He's on the home straight.

0:24:260:24:28

He's coming up to the large plant pot,

0:24:280:24:30

will he be able to include it into his free running?

0:24:300:24:33

No, he's bottled it, not taking the chance to land on it,

0:24:340:24:37

which could have been a cool free running move!

0:24:370:24:39

Tim's on the final straight now. Keep going, Tim.

0:24:390:24:42

You're doing really well!

0:24:420:24:43

It's a clean jump over the gap,

0:24:450:24:46

but has he got a big finale up his sleeve?

0:24:460:24:49

Oh. Not quite.

0:24:500:24:52

-Fantastic! Well done, Tim. How are you?

-Pretty tired.

0:24:520:24:57

Get yourself up, so that you get good lots of air into your lungs.

0:24:570:25:00

I'm pretty tired. The last landing was bad, absolutely horrific.

0:25:000:25:06

I landed on my heels, I jarred everything. That was bad.

0:25:060:25:11

You landed heel-heavy.

0:25:110:25:12

It really was heavy, it was like "doof," you know. But good.

0:25:120:25:16

I think you gave it a pretty good shot,

0:25:160:25:18

but, Luci, are you going to show him how it should really have been done?

0:25:180:25:21

-I hope so, I don't know, he did pretty good!

-Ha-ha-ha.

0:25:210:25:24

Although Tim kept moving and tried a flashy forward roll,

0:25:240:25:28

he wouldn't have got many points for creativity

0:25:280:25:31

and he didn't attempt any really difficult moves.

0:25:310:25:34

What will Luci give us?

0:25:340:25:35

Three, two, one and go!

0:25:370:25:41

Whoa, straightaway, and Luci shows off her cat-like balancing skills.

0:25:430:25:48

So already, we can see that Luci's barely having to think to get

0:25:480:25:51

over the balance challenge, she's speeding through it!

0:25:510:25:55

She's not just quick, she's composed and in complete control.

0:25:550:26:00

She's coming up for that first landing that we saw

0:26:000:26:02

Tim take quite hard.

0:26:020:26:03

Luci's cannon leap is extremely impressive

0:26:060:26:08

and would gain her points for being tricky and smoothly done!

0:26:080:26:12

The G-force going through her ankles

0:26:120:26:14

is barely half of what we saw on Tim's.

0:26:140:26:16

She moves effortlessly over every obstacle, and then, from nowhere...

0:26:190:26:22

She's thrown in a flip!

0:26:250:26:26

That's a classic free running move!

0:26:280:26:30

It's creative, difficult, elegant and beautifully performed.

0:26:300:26:34

And there's more!

0:26:380:26:39

Another amazing flip, followed by an incredible leap.

0:26:390:26:43

She is looking so comfortable, and on the home straight.

0:26:440:26:47

The plant pot is ahead, Tim chose to run straight past it.

0:26:470:26:51

But Luci goes over the top of it to keep her speed up.

0:26:510:26:54

Very stylish!

0:26:540:26:55

And a truly heroic leap over the gap in the wall.

0:26:590:27:03

It's coming up to that final jump that Tim really struggled with.

0:27:030:27:06

She's almost finished the course now,

0:27:060:27:08

can she throw in one last flourish?

0:27:080:27:10

Oh, yes! She spins in mid-air and lands magnificently.

0:27:110:27:15

Wow! That was incredible, absolutely incredible!

0:27:170:27:21

-How do you feel?

-Tired.

0:27:210:27:24

I came looking for a real-life superhero, a Catwoman

0:27:240:27:28

who could jump from heights and not get hurt.

0:27:280:27:31

I found her. Luci Romberg, you are superhuman!

0:27:310:27:37

It's been amazing to meet you, incredible to learn all about

0:27:370:27:40

-free running.

-Thank you. I had such a fun time, this was awesome.

0:27:400:27:42

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:010:28:04

Tim Fitzhigham meets the humans who defy science and puts their powers to the test - against himself. Tim meets Luci Romberg, an elite free runner, champion gymnast and Hollywood stuntwoman. Does Luci's amazing agility and balance make her a real-life Catwoman? Tim challenges Luci to three super tests in order to prove, or disprove, these gravity-defying superhuman powers.

Can Tim absorb the shock of jumping from great heights at an elite free-running academy in the USA or flip, spin and land safety around a downtown Los Angeles movie location? This is exactly as dangerous as it sounds, so Tim uses state-of-the-art technology, real medical science and his very own mission doctor as he prepares for his challenges.

Is Luci Romberg a real-life Catwoman? Be prepared to be amazed by Super Human Challenge!


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