15 things: The Great Wall

By: | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 //

1. Danny Way first conceived the idea to jump the Great Wall several years ago on a flight to Asia. His friends laughed at him and claimed he’d lost his marbles. But the gears were set into motion when he met with the China Extreme Sports Association, a government body created in 2004 to oversee “extreme sports” in the country.

2. Chinese officials carved Danny’s signature into the wall before he even attempted the gap. Danny is the first Westerner ever to be bestowed with such an honor. His name is engraved next to the first Chinese astronaut into space.

3. At the last minute, Danny had an extension built on the roll-in. “I’d rather overshoot it than come up short,” he said calmly as he climbed the extension. Although Danny cleared the chasm on his first attempt, he stll came up dreadfully short of his mark, severely blowing out his ankle. If it weren’t for the extension, Danny would most likely have died.

4. Danny was treated by the Chineses Olympic trainer, as well as his own personal physician, Dr. Brian Weeks but refused an X-ray, fearing that knowing the extent of damage he’d done would deter him from trying it again. Danny received lidocaine shots in his ankle to numb the pain. Amazingly, Danny still wore low cut shoes—a half-size too big, padded with two insoles in each shoe. After the crash, event sponsor Quiksilver scrambled to create “worst-case-scenario” documents, including a frightening plan in the event Danny perished during the attempt.

5. The last person before Danny who tried to jump the wall without the aid of a motor was Wang Jiaxiong of Shaanxi Province in 2002. The 30-year-old stunt cyclist cleared the wall on his mountain bike, but tumbled midair, falling over 50 feet onto his head. Wang died later that day.

6. Danny kept a handful of his father’s ashes in his pocket during the jump.

7. According to legend, in the 1500s Wn H, a Chinese official of the Ming dynasty, was the first to attempt a launch over the wall (and was perhaps the world’s first astronaut.) Wn took advantage of China’s early fireworks technology and had a chair built with 47 rockets attached. He climbed into his rocket chair while servants lit the fuses. A violent explosion ensued. After the smoke cleared, Wn and the chair were gone, never to be seen again.

8. Over 100 million Chinese watched the Great Wall leap live. The jump became the highest rated live broadcast in the history of Chinese television for its timeslot. Danny only had a 30 minute window to make the jump for the live broadcast, enough time for only five attempts.

9. The front desk employee at the hotel Danny stayed at was named Harry Wang. DC’s Sean Rogers offered him $100 for his nametag. Wang honorably declined.

10. Risk avoidance is deeply imbued in Chinese culture. Still, the Chinese government was so honored to have Danny, it declared a work stoppage for the people of China and released a statement saying, “Your mandatory support for this historic event is greatly encouraged.” Workers were required to report to work two hours early that day.

11. According to Danny, when he first reached the top of the roll-in people began popping out of the bushes like refugees. “It looked like the terrain was moving,” said Way of the thousands of locals hiding in the outskirts of the heavily-guarded site, hoping to catch a glimpse of the remarkable feat.

12. There weren’t any forklifts or cranes used to build the ramp. It was all done by hand with 60 workers laboring daily for weeks in 106 degree heat. The workers kept a pet camel available for hire, but the humps weren’t solid—more like big wiggly breasts—so no one in Danny’s entourage rode the beast.

13. The Beijing MegaRamp is the largest skate structure ever built. It required 60,000 screws, 4,000 framework joists, 410 sheets of plywood and 200 sheets of Skatelite imported from the US at a cost of $60,000. The final estimated cost of the entire spectacle, including ramp construction, security, travel and other miscellaneous expenses was nearly $1.7 million. Workers ran out of screws before completion and had to finish the project with nails.

14. China’s first emperor, Ying Zheng was only 13 when he ordered the construction of the Great Wall in 246 BC. Zheng also commissioned over 700,000 slaves to build a massive tomb and had over 8,000 life-size terracotta statues of Chinese warriors built to surround his final resting place. Those who worked on the structure were killed and buried with the emperor to ensure the site remained secret. It worked, until the tomb was discovered by peasant farmers in the mid-1970s. As a show of gratitude to Danny, the Chinese government presented him with one of the ancient terracotta warriors.

15. Danny’s great wall leap was on the cover of every major Asian newspaper, including The Beijing Times, The Daily Messenger and The Morning Post. Thousands of articles appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide, including Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Newsweek, The LA Times, The New
York Times and the UK’s biggest paid daily newspaper, The Sun. Accompanied
with hundreds of television news reports and countless highlight reels, Danny’s jump was not only the most covered story in skateboarding’s history, but for all action sports combined.

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