|Monday, 15 October 2012 14:06|
The 43-year-old skydiver and BASE jumper yesterday achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.24, or a searing 1,342kmh in his record-breaking dive from the Red Bull Stratos jump more than 39 km above the earth. KUALA LUMPUR: Felix Baumgartner may be the first human to break the sound barrier in a supersonic free-fall from space, but Malaysia can claim bragging rights to having indirectly helped prepare the Austrian for his death-defying feat.
However, Kuala Lumpur will always hold a special place in Baumgartner’s heart as the city is where he achieved his first world record.
Back then in 1999, the Salzburg native made world headlines when he made what was then the world’s highest skydiving jump off KL’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers. The jump saw him leap off the 450m tall Twin Towers and make it to safety, stunning KL-ites who were unaware that the stunt was taking place.
That incident only served to propel his desire for more extreme jumps. In 2003, he became the first person to skydive across the English Channel using a specially-constructed carbon fiber wing suit, leaping out of an aircraft and flying the rest of the journey to Calais using the wings.
He later also set the world record for the lowest BASE jump ever when he leaped 95 feet (29 metres) from the hand of the Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This was followed up by a jump from the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan.
Meanwhile, "Fearless Felix" broke more than just one record during his jump. His feat also saw more than 7.1 million people tune in to the live stream on YouTube to witness the 4 minutes and 19-second event.
This smashed the previous record held by the 2012 London Olympics, which had gathered a comparatively meagre 500,000 views.
Social media users were transfixed by the event, and Twitter users ran riot over cyberspace as the jump took place.
In the United States, the chance to witness the jump on TV was limited to the Discovery Channel, though more than 40 television networks in 50 total countries carried the live feed, organizers said. It was streamed by more than 130 digital outlets.
Moments after Baumgartner landed, event sponsor Red Bull took to Facebook to post a picture of the man on his knees.
In under 40 minutes, that photo was 'shared' more than 29,000 times and generated nearly 216,000 'likes' and more than 10,000 comments.
Immediately after the jump, Red Bull solicited questions for Baumgartner through Facebook and Twitter, promising to answer three at a post-jump news conference.
The event also captured the top trending topics on Twitter. During and after the jump, it was estimated that half of the worldwide trending topics were related to the jump, relegating past tweets about Justin Bieber and sports events.
Hollywood celebrities and superstar athletes were also caught up in 'Felix frenzy' as their tweets centred around his feat.
Humour was also an ever-present during the whole event. English Premier League fans re-tweeted with relish a particular tweet: "As he's now the greatest diver ever and performs superbly when there's no atmosphere, Liverpool have made a 47 million pounds bid for Felix Baumgartner", a message aimed at Liverpool’s superstar striker Luis Suarez who usually ostracized for alleged diving.
However, Baumgartner was unfazed by the media frenzy surrounding him. After the event, he admitted that he was just relieved to be back on the ground safe and sound.
"When you’re standing there on top of the world, you become so humble... The only thing is you want to come back alive," he told reporters.
However, it is his words shortly before leaping off the Zenith capsule that is most likely to be quoted for a long time. In a crackly radio link beamed around the world, he told viewers: "Sometimes you have [to go] up really high to [understand] how small you are."