For freestyler Chris Draper, the scale of performing in the Champions League Final opening ceremony had not quite hit home. Then Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale ran past.
Performing on the biggest sporting stage the world has to offer with a global audience of around 200 million people, the Burnley-born trickster knew that the pressure was on, but also that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“The adrenaline kicked in; I thought ‘I’m ready for this,’” Chris said. “You didn’t grasp the atmosphere until the countdown began and the Black Eyed Peas started.
“It hit home and got you going; I started doing tricks I’d never done in a show before,” Chris added. “Because of the buzz, I thought: ‘Just go for it.’”
From half-time shows at grounds from Turf Moor to St. Johnstone in Scotland, over five years’ experience had lead Chris to Cardiff where the stage was set for two of European football’s leviathans in Real Madrid and Juventus.
Taking to the pitch alongside his fellow freestyler Jamie Knight and futsal players Jamie Shawyer and Mo Omar, Chris said: “We had 100% control over the freestyle routine, but if we dropped it, that was the end - we needed to nail it.
“While rehearsing, a few tricks were slipping and I was thinking ‘Not tonight of all nights...’ Chris continued. “But we went out and it just clicked. We were like ‘Did we really just do that?’
“My mates said I looked relaxed, but I didn’t think I would be!” Chris said. “The Champions League Final is the pinnacle, it was chilling.”
And having already seen his gossamer feet take him from the beaches of Brazil to the streets of Prague, Chris is enjoying a well-earned rest. “I’ll have a break from training and do a bit of freestyle coaching in America,” he said.
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