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Orlando Duque is among the world elite of cliff jumpers. He also draws attention to spinal cord research in his capacity as Wings for Life ambassador. In a short interview, he explains why the topic affects him deeply on a personal level, where he will take part in the Wings for Life World Run, and what role his wife plays in all of this.

Orlando, it’s great to see you again. How are you?
I’m very well, thank you. I’m in training right now. The new season is about to start and I want to repeat my best performances.

You’re perceived as highly disciplined. Training is a full-time job for you. Are you ever afraid you might suffer an injury?
It’s important to be aware that one isn’t invulnerable. That’s why I respect every jump, but I’m not afraid. Accidents often happen when you least expect them. Many people seem to believe that spinal cord injuries primarily occur in extreme sports. But that’s not true. More than half of them are road traffic-related.

Why is Wings for Life so important to you?
So many people are waiting for a cure for spinal cord injuries. That alone makes it important. But maybe the topic is even close to my heart because my wife was in a car accident as a teenager. She was the only one to escape unscathed. Two passengers died, while Maria, one of my wife’s friends, has been paralyzed ever since…

Are you in contact with her?
Yes. She speaks about the challenges of everyday life in a wheelchair, especially with my wife. The Wings for Life World Run has brought us even closer together. After running in Lima and Japan for the first few years, we decided to participate in Sunrise. That’s where Maria lives. We organized a huge gettogether with friends and family. And we all started the race together.

That’s where this iconic photo was taken, correct?
Exactly. I’m used to competition and am usually eager to win. It’s very different at the Wings for Life World Run. It’s all about running for a cure. The atmosphere is indescribable. The event really means a lot to us.

Where will you participate this year?
The app allows you to participate wherever you want, but we will run in Sunrise with Maria again.

What does freedom mean to you?
When I am standing on a cliff, I decide for myself whether I want to jump. It’s my freedom to engage in this sport. I wish everyone could be self-determined and feel free in their bodies.

Please help us find a cure for spinal cord injuries by running for those who can’t on the 5thof May: