Undoubtedly the most-hyped freerunning event of the year, the Red Bull Art of Motion competition on the Greek island of Santorini showcased an amazing variety of talent from all around the globe. Twenty-one traceurs and traceuses descended upon the Santorini rooftops for several days of training, culminating in the actual two hour long event.
Note: From now on there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the event yet, go watch it here. It’s worth the run time.
The 21 athletes, in no particular order:
- Yoann Leroux from France
- Marcus Gustafsson from Sweden
- Jason Paul from Germany
- Pip Andersen from the UK
- Pasha Petkuns from Latvia
- Ryan Doyle from the UK
- Tim Shieff from the UK
- Paulo Freitas from Brazil
- Erica Madrid from the US
- Alexander Zyulev from Russia
- Pamela Forster from Austria
- Luis Alkmin from Portugal
- Luci Romberg from the US
- Slava Petins from Latvia
- Josh Yadon from the US
- Stergios Doumanis from Greece
- Cory DeMeyers from the USA
- Kevin Fluri from Switzerland
- Nathan Jones from the UK
- Kie Willis from the UK
- Jesse Peveril from Switzerland
- Anan Anwar from Thailand, judging flow
- Paul Joseph from the UK, judging creativity
- Victor Lopez from the US, judging difficulty
- Gaetan Bouillet from Belgium, judging execution
- Patrick Morawetz of Austria, head judge
Andy Bell. The man is a decent commentator – the line about Zyulev needing a tan cracked me up. But he doesn’t know parkour. Everything was a “aerial twist” or a “pimp flip” or a “cork 360.” Ryan Doyle’s double cork wasn’t a “double cork 540.” His double butterfly twist was not a double cork. Marcus Gustafsson’s tunnel flip was not a “delayed side flip.” And so on for all 2 hours. Tricker Travis Wong from White Lotus/J.A.M. does live commentary; why can’t that be piped through the video feed? At very least get someone who knows parkour to do the play-by-play.
The choice of judges for this event was less than inspired. Anan Anwar is a member of Team Farang, as is competitor Jason Paul. Paul Joseph is a member of Storm Freerun, as are competitors Tim Shieff and Kie Willis. Victor Lopez is a member of Team Tempest, as are competitors Luci Romberg, Corey deMeyers, and Josh Yadon. Patrick Morawetz is a member of Ape Connection, as is competitor Pamela Forster. Gaetan Bouillet was a good choice, though.
Why would you pick judges from the teams of athletes competing? It doesn’t make sense. No, I’m not casting aspersions on any judge’s honesty, but it would have been easy for a judge to pump up his teammates’ score at the expense of the other athletes. I doubt it happened, but why take the risk when there are so many other good candidates for judges out there?
I didn’t agree with some of the scores either. Ryan Doyle’s run was a particularly egregious example. He made one mistake, the bailed double cork, and maybe 2 slip-ups, but you could barely tell on those. But his other moves were very very smooth, and the difficulty level was crazy. And he got the lowest score of any of the top 8. But that was purely the judges’ decisions. Disagreement with judges happens in every competition. It’s not a big issue if some fan is upset.
Andy Bell (and Red Bull in general) kept going on and on and on about how Santorini is literally the best and most perfect place in the world to freerun. It’s not. The course looked like a lot of fun, but it could have been so much better. The most glaring problem is a lack of bars. A set of bars would have added a whole new dimension to Santorini: a place for showcasing upper-body strength and skill on your hands instead of feet. You could debate the probability of bars being present in a real urban setting and therefore unrealistic – but what’s the point? Probability is not exactly a theme of Red Bull, the company that is trying to get a man to break the sound barrier while free falling 23 miles. Anyway: more bars = more possibilities for movement = more creativity = more fun for everyone.
Some more railings would have been nice, too. The lone set they had was used by just about everyone.
You know what else wasn’t present on Santorini? Soft surfaces. Yes, this is supposed to be an urban environment. We get that. But just a few weeks ago, we had had KRAP Invaders 3, which was held over grass. You know what? The moves that got thrown down over grass were orders of magnitude bigger than anything that happened at Santorini. Oh, and they could actually do cat leaps there.
Then there’s the Mediterranean sun reflecting off all that white. We’re not gonna see it in the videos because they’ll be color-graded to compensate, but I have no doubt that sun was absolutely glaringly blindingly bright. Must have been murder on the athletes’ eyes and depth perception.
Anyway, it’s not that I dislike the Santorini rooftops. It’s one of the most natural city environments for an AoM yet. It looked like a ton of fun and I would love to train there. But I don’t consider it the literally perfect best spot ever that Andy Bell / Red Bull seemed to think it was. I thought the London and Japan 2011 courses were just as good. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?
90 seconds per athlete. 21 qualifier runs, then the best 8 athletes go on to the finals.
The main problem I have with this format is that you only get to see eight absolute-best runs. The other thirteen athletes, who have been hoping to make finals and therefore saving their best moves, don’t get a chance to make a really huge effort. I’m betting this was the reason Tim Shieff didn’t make finals. I’ve seen comments from other athletes in past AoM’s saying that they were upset their first run wasn’t good enough to get them to the finals; they were holding back.
I submit that the Kuwait Art of Motion was a much better format. For those who do not remember, 5 teams of 4 athletes had complete access to the island of Failaka for 36 hours. They were all given standard filming equipment and told to make a video. The team whose video was judged to be the best won the competition. That was pretty cool. The downside was that there was no live performance, which means less exposure for Red Bull. But what if Red Bull added an obstacle course in which the best time wins? Members of the top two teams could compete for a 1st/2nd/3rd place speed prize. Or it could be reversed. The obstacle course comes first, then the top 8 or 10 or 20 finishers could go on to make a video.
I don’t mean to criticize Red Bull too much. They’ve sunk a lot of money into Art of Motion events over the last 5 years, and for that I salute them. Some really great videos have been produced and I have no doubt that everyone who participated in an AoM was happy with their experience, if not necessarily their rankings.
There’s so much potential in a gathering of the world’s best traceurs and traceuses. I hope Red Bull taps into more of that during the next Art of Motion.
Which was your favorite run? I liked Kie Willis’. Pure parkour except for one sideflip.