Written by Staff Writer and Senior Reporter Brenda Goh
Maverick Viñales is renowned for his risky antics. The Venezuelan parachutist, in fact, jumped from so high a couple of years ago that he still retains some of the mangled scraps of his parachute. “It was only second wind.”
The 62-year-old was taken to hospital a year ago with severe back pain, but the accidents haven’t soured his enthusiasm for skydiving. On Saturday, in a clear, windless sky, he leapt from 9,040 feet (2,718 meters) in Panama, unharmed and uninjured.
When he survived the spectacular climb to the mountain top, Viñales said he started thinking about the crash site. “I went there and thought maybe I should climb to the top of this very steep cliff.”
For a daring feat such as this, only the fittest adrenaline junkies are suitable, and these days, Viñales considers himself in the “Vulcan class.” He has tried out his extreme sports close to death zones but always takes the precaution of getting a doctor’s note.
This is a throwback to his days as a country boy, when he also learned to live off the land and play sports in the wilderness. In fact, after becoming a professional parachutist, he claims he lived in constant danger.
He once leapfrogged 700 meters (3,000 feet) at about 340 kilometers (211 miles) per hour in a stunt with a French daredevil who is now in prison.
Meanwhile, while recuperating from his last landing, Viñales went to cool off with a swim. When he sank into the water, he felt something in his left hip and then realized he was on fire. He jumped out of the water, half naked, to a river and grabbed a fire extinguisher and set fire to himself.
After his most recent parachute drop, he told reporters: “If someone survives a jump, they will always relive it. This is why they need to (do it again and again), especially in conditions like we experienced today.”
As he made his way down the mountain, Viñales avoided any contact with the water or other climbers and continued on his dangerous descent at speed of up to 3.8 kilometers (2.3 miles) per hour. He had to cope with temperature changes of up to 20 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) by climbing down the mountain, swaying in the wind.
A group of people, some of whom snapped photographs, watched as Viñales dropped from the view. “He waved to the crowd from his perch on the mountain but otherwise he behaved normally,” said an unnamed journalist who witnessed the drama.
“He put a flag in the camera grip and then went off with a grin.”