Self-taught daredevils embrace extreme sports

(14 Sep 2015) LEAD IN:
With limited access to equipment and facilities, committed young Gazans are finding innovative ways to explore their love of extreme sports.
From using internet videos to learn the newest moves, to building their own training structures – nothing is stopping these daredevils from pushing the boundaries.
Performing gravity-defying moves on a structure that they built themselves, the four members of Bar Palestine are pioneers in Gaza of street workout.
A growing global fitness trend that originated in the United States, street workout is a challenging combination of athletics and calisthenics.
Bakr Al-Maqadma of Bar Palestine says: “We have been practising here in the Gaza Strip for a year and a half. We watch it (street workout) on YouTube and we – the Bar Palestine team, made up of four of us – are almost the only team doing it in Gaza. We would like to take part in international contests in this sport and spread it within Palestinian society.”
The commitment of Bakr Al-Maqadma and the other members of Bar Palestine is unwavering.
“We made a wooden structure on the beach and we use it to train almost every day for an hour or an hour and a half. We see a move on YouTube and start rehearsing, and we need a day or two to get proficient at it. Every week we begin a new move,” Al-Maqadma explains.
Gaza has been under economic blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007. There have been three wars between Israel and the Palestinians over the past six years.
This month, the United Nations warned that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” in less than five years if current economic trends continue.
But Bar Palestine are far from the only group of youngsters finding ways to pursue a passion for adventurous pastimes.
Parkour, a discipline developed in France, is also being practised in the streets of Gaza.
Practitioners aim to get from one point to another without any assistive equipment.
“Parkour is rare and very difficult because it has no rules and no safety measures, especially here in Gaza. We suffer from injuries and many other things. We have to practise parkour to prove to the outside world that we have energy and can perform the most difficult thing,” explains Fahed Daoud.
Parkour may not need much in the way of kit, but performing tricks on roller skates and bicycles is more of a challenge.
These young men manage to draw an audience- as well as a number of brave volunteers- for their training.
Bicycle rider Mohammed Atallah says: “Our message to the whole world is to pay attention to all athletic youths in the Gaza Strip, and for sportspeople to contribute to us what we need, cover the shortages we suffer from – streets, roads, lack of trainers and bicycles.”
Despite the challenges, sport inspires many young Gazans.
Away from the tarmacked roads of Gaza City, weekly sand riding events also draw large crowds.

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