Gaza's parkour athletes jump for joy over new training facility

SHOWS:

GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 17, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. COACH AT PARKOUR ACADEMY, JEHAD ABU SULTAN, JUMPING ON A WOODEN BOARD (MUTE)

2. TRAINEE PRACTISING PARKOUR

3. ABU SULTAN JUMPING ON COLUMN DURING TRAINING (MUTE)

4. TRAINER JUMPING ON WOODEN BOXES

5. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) COACH AT PARKOUR ACADEMY, JEHAD ABU SULTAN, SAYING:

"Injuries used to occur a lot; many people stopped playing because there were no safety and security measures. We used to play in cemeteries; which is not a safe place and you could be injured at any moment. Now with the presence of wall runners and this first academy, everything changed 180 degrees; we have safe and secure areas; such as mattresses; even if you fall you will continue training until you can do the movement right."

6. TRAINEES JUMPING

7. KIDS DURING TRAINING

8. ABU SULTAN GIVING INSTRUCTIONS TO TRAINEES

9. TRAINEES STANDING NEAR BANNER READING IN (English): 'WALL RUNNERS'

10. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) COACH AT PARKOUR ACADEMY, JEHAD ABU SULTAN, SAYING:

"I have played parkour for 13 years now. During those 13 years I have suffered several injuries, the worst was to my wrist, and it stopped me playing the game for a year."

11. TRAINER JUMPING FROM WOODEN BOX TOWARD A COLUMN (MUTE)

12. VARIOUS OF TRAINEES PRACTISING

GAZA CITY GAZA (DECEMBER 21, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

13. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PARKOUR TRAINEE, MOHAMMED AL-MASRI, SAYING:

"We used to play in the streets, in the neighborhoods, near the sea, used to jump from schools' roof, we used to play everywhere in the streets between houses so we would sustain injuries. For example I injured my neck, I couldn't move it for a month, I also broke my hand. Now it's an achievement to have this academy, we have a coach, there is construction, there is safety here."

GAZA CITY GAZA (DECEMBER 17, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

14. CHILD JUMPING ON BOX

15. KIDS TRAINING

16. COACH ABU SULTAN JUMPING FROM BOX TO ANOTHER

17. VARIOUS OF TRAINEES RUNNING INSIDE HALL

18. COACH JUMPING / TRAINER GIVING INSTRUCTIONS

19. COACH GIVING INSTRUCTIONS TO TRAINEE

STORY: Often injured in daredevil jumps over obstacles in cemeteries and abandoned buildings, Gaza's parkour enthusiasts can now practice their niche sport on safer ground.

The Palestinian territory's first parkour gym, equipped with wooden boxes over which youngsters can soar in high-flying twists and flips and padded mattresses to land on, has opened its doors.

Developed in France, parkour took root in Gaza around 15 years ago. It provides its own sense of freedom of movement in an area locked in conflict with neighbouring Israel, which blockades the enclave, citing security concerns.

"I have played parkour for 13 years now. During those 13 years I have suffered several injuries, the worst was to my wrist, and it stopped me playing the game for a year," said Jehad Abu Sultan, 32, one of two coaches at the new Wallrunners academy.

Some 70 athletes, male and female and aged between six and 26, are enrolled in the current three-month free course. Dozens are on waiting lists.

Abu Sultan, a co-founder of Gaza's first parkour group, began practicing his acrobatics at a cemetery in the territory's Khan Younis refugee camp. He said injuries forced some of his colleagues to quit.

"Injuries used to occur a lot because there were no safety and security measures. Now with the presence of this hall and this first academy we can avoid injuries. A player will perform the moves easily," he said.

Mohammad Al-Masri, 17, said police used to give chase when he and others played parkour at schools.

"I used to play out of fear," he said. "I am here, playing safe."

(Production: Mohammad Shana, Arafat Barbakh, Suheir Sheikh, Roleen Tafakji)

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