Meet Wheelchair Aerialist Paul Nunnari

blog190813_flyAn ex-Paralympian turned wheelchair aerialist, Paul Nunnari is the world’s first person to attempt wheelchair aerialism. In fact, you could say he invented the notion of it, as it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.

Not only must you have a strong upper body, it must be a grotesquely strong upper body, and needs to be about three times stronger than the average, and that is exactly what the 40 year old Paul Nunnari has. So that means quadriplegics, don’t even think about it.  You need every muscle in your arms to do what he does – hoist his body, with his wheelchair strapped to his body, up 30 feet on a silk rope.

And Paul has been strong for decades. Paralyzed when he was 11 years old while getting off the school bus, he’s been an adapted athlete for almost as long as he’s been paralyzed.  He was a wheelchair racer for Team Australia in the Atlanta games in 1996, in Sydney for the games in 2000, as well as Athens in 2004. Paul won a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney games in the men’s 4x100m relay.

And his immense upper-body strength is exactly what was needed to try wheelchair aerialism, which his sister got him interested in about a year ago.  No one had ever done such a thing before, which is exactly why Paul wanted to do it.  And he specifically wanted to stay in his wheelchair too to make the stunt look that much more impressive, knowing just having his legs flailing around wouldn’t get the same effect.

See, wowing the crowd was always key, as in the back of his mind he wanted to use his aerialism on a wider scale, when he finally accomplished in August of this year. He tried out for Australia’s Got Talent, which is exactly like the U.S. version we have here, making it to the finals with his amazing performance.  The first time he performed it on the show, the judges were absolutely floored.

No one had ever seen such an awesome thing before – a wheelchair flying around a silk rope way up in the air – in fact, when I watch the video again I still am in awe. Watch his initial performance on Australia’s Got Talent. While he didn’t win this season, he definitely helped people see those of us in wheelchairs a little differently, which is something we all strive to do in our daily lives.

Big thanks to Paul Nunnari for creating such a beautiful adapted sport.  It would be awesome to see a female do it too, be all graceful and the air like her able-bodied counterparts, but I think it would take a very strong female to do the job.  It’s just a blast watching him climb super high and do what he loves once he’s in the air.  Truly amazing stuff.

Would you try wheelchair aerialism?

- Visit his Facebook page

- Watch his first performance on Australia’s Got Talent

- Watch him in the semi-finals on the show

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