Final flight for Colombia's bird man
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Final flight for Colombia's bird man

Colombia’s Jhonathan Flórez made his final descent on Saturday afternoon, as the 32-year-old’s ashes were released from a military C295 jet accompanied by 35 army parachutists.

A 10,000 strong crowd of onlookers looked on, in a final pledge of respect for Colombia’s “bird man”, as Flórez’s ashes spiralled towards the ground.

Born in 1983 in the department of Antioquia, the base jumper used his teenage dreams of flying to propel him to dizzying levels.

During the 19 years of his career, the extreme sportsman completed over 2,300 jumps in his specially designed winged-suit, the country’s El Tiempo newspaper reported.

“This tribute is very beautiful and overwhelming. Despite the pain, I feel good, he deserved this and much more. He was an incredible human being who now has his own wings”. Jhonathan’s wife Katie commented whilst watching the ceremony.

The Colombian broke four Guinness World records during his career, in 2012 he jumped 37.265 feet from a plane at a staggering 45 degrees below zero.

During the jump, Flórez registered the greatest distance in free-fall (17.52 kilo-meters), the greatest distance jumped in a winged suit (16.31 kilo-meters), the longest time spent in free-fall (9:06 minutes) and the greatest height jumped whilst wearing a winged suit (37.265 feet).

He was also the first parachutist, alongside Belgian Cedric Dumont, to complete a jump over Peru’s Nazca lines whilst wearing a winged suit.

However, it was a freak accident in Switzerland which resulted in Flórez’s death. As yet, camera footage documenting his fall has not been recovered.

“Jhonathan was following the curve of a mountain and the suit didn’t give him enough elevation. He died instantly on impact and didn’t suffer.” His sister Karen told Colombia’s Semana magazine.

Yet, Colombia’s extreme sport legacy still lives on, despite the loss of Flórez’s extraordinary achievements.

Colombian cliff diver, Orlando Duque,  is nine-times cliff diving world champion, completing spectacular dives from the top of natural wonders.

Although now retired, Duque helped place the country on the extreme-sports map, in a sport with a select following.

Not forgetting Colombia’s current BMX “Queen” Mariana Pajón, world champion and Olympic gold medal holder, the 23-year-old athlete is a reminder of Colombia’s great cycling tradition – with a modern twist.

Whilst Marcelo Gutiérrez was awarded bronze during the World Downhill mountain biking championships at Fort William, Scotland, on June 8.

As Jhonathan’s ashes are safely with his family, Colombia looks set to continue with its tradition of extreme sports heroes, defying gravity and defining new limits on both a physical and mental level.

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