Freerunner Bart van der Linden | EMOVES special

Bart van der Linden became world champion freerunning in 2016. This year he will be organising Hop the Blok, Eindhoven's free running festival, for the fifth edition during EMOVES.

Last summer he performed at Tianmen Mountain in China. Bart shows a video on his phone of how he ‘free runs’ down a staggeringly long staircase full of obstacles. Fast and super agile. The public cheers when - two minutes later - he reaches the finish line unharmed. Google his name and you'll find countless videos in which Bart makes the most amazing jumps in the most exotic places. Freerunning is his life, and that brings him to all corners of the world.

Home base in Eindhoven

But Eindhoven is his home base. This is where he trains and where he co-organises Hop the Blok, the two-day festival where freerunners from all over the world come to the Klokgebouw at Strijp-S.

There are three variants to freerunning, he says. Style, skills, and speed. The challenges of Hop the Block revolve around speed. In a 'parkour' with parallel lanes, two participants compete against each other. The sport looks dangerous, but it's all about safety and control. "You have to be fully comfortable with what you do, so no reckless movements.” Besides professionals, Hop the Block is meant for everyone with an interest in the sport. On Sunday, children can do challenges on the streets. In the run-up to EMOVES, professional videos on how to do the challenges will be released online.

Obstacles as training facilities

For Bart it all started with Yamakasi, a film he found in the local video store as a twelve-year-old boy in Eersel. The film is named after a group of French freerunners who laid the foundation of the sport. ‘Parkour’, where it all started, is a training method from the French army. Later it turned into a more playful variant, freerunning, in which you move as creatively as possible along different obstacles, to get from A to B. These obstacles are often a wall or a bench on the street. Bart prefers to train outside. "Even when the weather is not great.” The best place is probably the Kastelenplein, but Eindhoven is full of great spots, he tells us.

And soon there will be a real training hall at Strijp-S. Together with the trickers and the calisthenics practitioners, the freerunners will have their own place in building SEY, the former Philips telephone exchange. Bart is happy. Especially because it is not going to be a straightforward hall with training facilities. "When you enter, you get the feeling of a spot. It is a place with all kinds of obstacles that you have to get to know over time.”

And so the sport is gaining popularity in Eindhoven. For Bart, it all started twelve years ago on a bench on the street, and now it is still what his life is all about. He joins competitions home and abroad and has his work as an organiser and advisor (for example, on whether or not it should become an Olympic sport). Next year, he will perform in various theatres with the Amsterdam dance company ISH. The show is called The Modern Samurai and is based on Yamakasi. The film with which it all started for him in 2006.

Photo's by Bram Berkien.