From car park to parkour paradise – this is Hazal Nehir's backyard
The Turkish parkour athlete has had Hollywood come calling and is now fine-tuning her own backyard parkour training ground.
Turkey hasn't traditionally been renowned as a hotbed of parkour, but Hazal Nehir is changing that with her own exploits.
Honing her skills in a backyard set-up built in the parking space for the family car, Nehir has even done enough to catch the eye of famous film director Michael Bay.
Here are seven things you need to know about one of the rising stars of the sport.
1. She built her own backyard parkour set-up with her mum
Nehir lives just outside Ankara in the Turkish countryside and had a plan to get her own backyard set-up with rails and barriers, which was handily put in place just before lockdown, allowing her to carry on training.
She said: “I built it with a friend of mine and my mum at my mum’s house where I live. It was built where she usually parks her car, so she built another place for her car, but I’ve taken that over too for more training set-up! Sometimes she complains, but really she’s fine and she loves watching me.”
2. It’s made of scaffolding poles and foam mattresses
In Turkey, she struggles to find enough metal railings on which to practise her parkour, so the focus of the backyard set-up, which took three days to build, was aimed at filling that void. The construction was built using scaffolding poles.
“Basically, working on rails in parkour is technically a bit harder,” she explained. “It’s rounder and more slippery, so you need to have more technical skills to be able to use the rails and bars. So, I’ve been working on my technique and getting more confidence doing that with running and jumping on rails. But I had a couple of mattresses in place so I could practise some tricks too.”
3. Her ankles have taken a bashing in the backyard
The set-up has been in place for six months, but she battled to get it just right, so it wasn’t wobbling as she performed her tricks. Understandably, along the way not everything went entirely to plan for her.
“A couple of times things did go wrong,” she said. “The thing is the rails are quite solid, but the ground is not. It makes the set-up a bit wobbly, so it’s a bit hard to jump on them. You have to trust your technique. It’s quite safe, but I needed to get used to that wobbly feel.”
4. Breaking came before freerunning
Nahir makes no secret of the fact that she has long enjoyed throwing herself about, but, before freerunning, her passion was in breaking. She enrolled in lessons at the age of 13 after being inspired by a television programme.
“So, I started doing the same moves that I’d seen on the TV,” she said. “A couple of weeks later I was able to do them and was showing my mum me doing headstands – ‘hey mum, look I can do this’. She suggested I go to breakdancing class and I was like ‘why not?’. That’s how I got into breaking.”
5. She got hooked on the smell of freerunning!
Introduced to freerunning by a friend, she quickly changed her passions and spent more and more time working on getting better at it. However, her reason for liking it initially isn't your most typical.
She revealed: “I remember the first feeling after my initial training outside. I looked at my hands and smelt them. They looked really dirty and smelt like the street and dust. It reminded me of my childhood straight away. I know that smell, I missed that smell. I was always on the street playing as a child, jumping on walls – it’s the same kind of thing that I’m doing now.”
6. Her parkour saw her appear alongside Ryan Reynolds in a film
Nehir now has film credits to her name having played the role of Elena in the Michael Bay-directed Netflix film 6 Underground, with Reynolds in the main role. She initially thought she was brought in for her freerunning skills, but was also given a speaking line.
“This was my first time that I had to act in English,” she recalled. “I had Michael Bay in front of me telling me what to do. I hadn’t done any acting, even in Turkish and here I had to do it in front of really good, successful people. I only had one sentence, but I didn’t even know I had a sentence or that I needed to talk – I thought I was just going there for jumping!”
7. The scene in Turkey is growing
Nahir spends a lot of time training in Brighton, UK with her boyfriend Benj Cave and credits England and Spain as being her two favourite places to go freerunning. In Turkey, the scene is growing, but still has some way to go.
She says: “It’s getting bigger. There aren't too many rails or bars or gyms for training tricks. This affects my training, as if you go to Europe you can find more people better than you, more professional. You can learn more.”