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ANCHORAGE - A Hollywood fitness guru stood poised to claim a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. A television crew was on hand to record the attempt at the highest martial arts kick in history. A patsy from Alaska nobody had ever heard of was hired to make it all look like a competition.
Then a funny thing happened.
The patsy, an Alaska Native from Point Hope, beat the star and grabbed the record.
While his glamorous competitor used a tae-bo technique seen in popular fitness videos, Jesse Frankson kicked a style used in the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. Heights of 9 feet and more have been reached by kickers who tap a sealskin ball suspended high above them and then land, perfectly balanced, on the same foot.
As it turns out, the best Eskimo kick beats the best martial arts kick hands down.
In a made-for-TV contest filmed a year ago and aired in September by Fox Sports, Frankson beat martial arts expert Michael Blanks, the brother of tae-bo creator Billy Blanks.
Both men bettered the previous world record of 8 feet, 9 inches and both hit 9-3. But Blanks bowed out at 9-6, and Frankson went on to win the contest and set the world record with a kick of 9-8.
Frankson's effort put him in the 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. And it stunned the Hollywood crowd.
"Once I told them I don't do martial arts, they thought they had me beat," Frankson said.
But Frankson was thinking just the opposite.
"As soon as I saw (Blanks) do a practice kick before we started," he said, "I knew I had him beat."
Producers invited Frankson to the contest after learning about him through WEIO organizers. In 1998, as a high school senior, Frankson tied one of the most respected records at the Native Youth Olympics in Anchorage when he soared 9-2.
That earned him a spot in the record book alongside Brian Randazzo of Anchorage, the undisputed king of high kicking who still holds world records in the one-foot high kick (9-6) and the two-foot high kick (8-8).
Frankson said that when he succeeded at 9-6, organizers wanted to call it a day. But Frankson insisted they keep going because he wanted to better Randazzo's mark of 9-6 -- even though his effort can't go into the Native sports record book because it didn't happen at a Native sports championship event.
"They wanted me to stop at 9-6, and I told them no. That's the record back home and I had to try it," Frankson said. "They made me stop at 9-8 for future competitions' sake."
So far, the record remains intact. Frankson says he has turned down offers to kick against other martial arts experts in France, Spain and Germany.
"It's too far," he said of the travel. "Besides, all I wanted to do was hold the record, and I already did that."
Distributed by the Associated Press.