Wide Angle

Diaspo #189 : Didi Alaoui… live fast, parkour faster

Didi Alaoui is a Moroccan parkour freerunning athlete. In 2019, he was crowned world champion at the Red Bull Art of Motion. The Oujda-native is currently based in Los Angeles, where he coaches parkour and prepares for future competitions.

Didi Alaoui celebrating after winning the 2019 Red Bull Art of Motion championship in Italy in 2019. / DR
Estimated read time: 3'

Back in his hometown in eastern Morocco, young and passionate Didi built his own parkour obstacles over the roof of his parents’ house. Those were his first days in this new training discipline that involves jumping, climbing, swinging and vaulting.

On sunny days, he used to ride his bike two kilometers away from Oujda, where he lives, to find sand. An important element to train parkour and practice jumps and flips. Using old tires and sand bags, he used to trace his tracks and film his endless attempts.

His love for Parkour as well as his first jumps started at home. «I first knew about Parkour from watching a French movie called ‘Yamakasi’», Mohamed Didi Alaoui, known by his stage name Didi, told Yabiladi.

«This movie changed my life and I tried to do the same at home», he recalled. «In my room, I used to put chairs and pillows to learn backflips. I started throwing myself and jumping until one day I landed on my face and realized that I had just done a full flip», he reminisced.

In a city he thought would know nothing about the new discipline, Didi eventually met with a community of parkour aficionados. One day, he spotted some young men who were practicing parkour at a nearby park. Slowly, the young man learned about local competitions held in Morocco, with other parkour fans.

Living the parkour dream

«At first, I was doing parkour because it was fun but then I started hearing about all these competitions going on in Morocco. I started traveling all over the country, competing in some of them and judging in others», the 25-year-old athlete said.

With the support of his family and friends, Didi started thinking big about his parkour career. After seven years of learning, training and parkouring, he decided to apply for his first international freerunning competition.

In 2014, the Oujda-native decided to join the Red Bull Art of Motion, which was to be held in Greece. Didi made a video, submitted it and was selected by votes to join the competition. However, he had to sort his visa and overcome an injury that slowed down his training at the time.

«My visa application was rejected. I remember I was speaking to my father on the phone in Casablanca when that happened and I recall I was crying and telling him that I would quit… he said 'no just try again next year'».

Didi Alaoui

And so, in 2015, Didi joined the competition and competed alongside people he considered his idols growing up. «I was very nervous and couldn’t sleep the day before the competition. I used to watch these people on TV and now they would predict that I would win», he recalled.

Although Didi did not win that edition of the Red Bull Art of Motion, he gained the confidence and experience he needed to win an equally important one in Qatar.

After winning this Middle East and Africa freerunning tournament, Didi’s career took a different turn. Like a professional athlete, Didi started receiving offers from sponsors who believed in his talent. Then in 2016, he learned about the school of his dreams.

The young man stumbled upon a school in Denmark where he could learn gymnastics and parkour. «I wrote a letter and sent them a video and they responded saying that they wanted me to join them», Didi proudly recalled.

Indeed, the Moroccan parkour champion was granted a six-month scholarship. In Denmark, he lived the dream, training in a real fully-equipped gym and being among people who did the same thing as him. He was then given a second scholarship to finish another semester and then an internship to coach other young freerunners.

Didi ended up spending three years in Denmark, studying, training and coaching parkour. His dream, however, ended in 2019. He returned to Morocco, injured and parted with his parkour ambitions.

Parkour in LA

During the same year, Didi set himself a new goal. He was granted a visa to the USA and headed to Los Angeles to join his sponsor and team. In May 2019, he was in California, the Golden State. «The plan was to coach with my team in their parkour gym, the biggest in the world», he said.

However, things took a different turn. Preparing for the August 2019 Red Bull Art of Motion, Didi was forced to quit coaching after he was denied a two-week vacation to train for the competition. «It was very difficult to quit as living here is not easy. I did not have enough money but I had to apply», Didi regretted.

Forced to find a new job, Didi struggled to prepare for the competition. «I was working, and working out at the same time. My body was beaten up and I could barely walk», he recalled.

Luckily, Didi was selected, competed, and won the championship in Italy. «I ended up winning the competition and the best trick. I was living the dream and I worked hard for it», he proudly said.

After being crowned world champion, Didi had to return to LA. There, he delivered food and did private coaching to support his family and himself. With the pandemic, things were only getting worse. «2020 was not easy, for being world champion you would expect that you would have opportunities. However, my team stopped paying us because of the pandemic», he regretted.

Despite all odds, Didi is still fighting and believing in himself. In 2021, he will be defending his title at the Red Bull Art of Motions upcoming edition. Working hard to secure a living in LA and training to achieve his goals, parkour for Didi remains a passion worth fighting for.

Be the first one to comment on our articles...