Returned missionaries/married couple Calen and Reagan Chan have taken their parkour/freerunning skills across the globe, competing in international competitions. The gravity-defying sport brought the Chans together. (Photo courtesy of the Chans)
Husband-&-wife team Calen & Reagan Chan vaulting, flipping & twisting to parkour heights
Returned missionaries continue to find opportunities to share the gospel while competing with the world's parkour/freerunning elite.
By Jason Swensen
22 Jun 2023
How to describe Calen and Reagan Chan?
Well, they are typical Latter-day Saint 20-somethings who grew up in Utah County, served missions, got married — and also enjoy finding gravity-defying, YouTube-worthy ways of overcoming obstacles. Literally.
The Chans are internationally recognized parkour/freerunning practitioners with “what-did-I-just-see?” abilities to flip, swing, vault, climb, jump and roll over and around objects.
They are, at once, athletes and artists — practicing their sport around the globe.
A quick primer: Parkour, as described by Calen, “is basically the discipline of overcoming obstacles and getting from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.”
Freerunning, meanwhile, is a parkour offshoot emphasizing creativity of movement over efficiency. It is an acrobatic spectacle replete with “flips, twists and flashy moves.”
Besides being popular on YouTube and social media platforms, parkour and freerunning have highlighted action sequences in films such as “Casino Royale” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” and in video game series such as “Tomb Raider” and “Assassin’s Creed.”
Both Calen Chan and Reagan Anderson were kinetic kids growing up — always in motion. So parkour/freerunning was the perfect sport for both.
Reagan’s ongoing parkour/freerunning journey began with gymnastics. She discovered parkour via Youtube when she was 16.
“I watched these insane videos that came out six or seven years ago, and I thought,
‘Holy cow — I want to do that’,” she said. “My favorite thing about parkour was that you didn’t need any tools or equipment, you could just go out and do it anywhere you wanted.”
Soon she was “jamming” with the local Utah County parkour community, honing her skills and making new friends that eventually included her future husband.
Calen, meanwhile, was attempting backflips on his mother’s bed at about the same age when most toddlers are still mastering walking.
“When my cousin and I were little, we wanted to be daredevils,” he said. “We wanted to do thrilling things.”
Like Reagan, Calen watched parkour pros on the internet. He was nailing backflips on the ground by his 12th birthday. Later he studied Brazilian “capoeira” — an athletic combination of dance and martial art. The gym that provided capoeira classes also offered instruction in parkour.
“I was about 14 and decided to give parkour a try,” said Calen. “On the first day, the instructors taught me how to front flip, how to vault and all the parkour basics that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do.”
Soon Calen was also jamming with the local parkour community. He was drawn by both the energy of the sport and the camaraderie of his fellow practitioners.
“It was addicting,” he said. “I loved the feeling of overcoming a new challenge — and then having all those people there to support you and to cheer you on.”
Eventually, Calen was starring in his own YouTube parkour videos. Reagan became a fan of his videos — and determined to meet the talented young man. Almost two years passed before the two actually met face-to-face.
They became acquainted in 2017 at a trampoline park in Provo that was frequented by Calen.
“I just remember seeing this girl that was doing front flips off of a block on one foot,” said Calen. “She was the first girl I had ever seen doing parkour at that park.”
He approached Reagan, said hello and then told her his name.
“Oh, I know who you are,” replied Reagan.
Over the next few months, the two 18-year-olds began hanging out together at the park. Calen coached Reagan in parkour. “And then pretty soon,” he said, “we fell in love.”
Missionary work and marriage for a pair of parkour elite
Even as Calen was playing a key role in Reagan’s development as a parkour athlete, Reagan was helping her boyfriend return to Church activity.
“I had been struggling with a lot of things,” he said. “I had not taken the sacrament in probably three years. But when Reagan came into my life, she helped me change a lot of things.”
Calen began a prayerful study of the Book of Mormon. His faith and personal witness of the gospel continued to grow.
The parkour-loving couple dated for about nine months before Reagan answered a mission call to Ecuador. Six months later, Calen began his own mission to New Zealand.
Reagan missed Calen and parkour while serving in South America. “But my mission was an amazing experience filled with miracles,” she said.
Calen’s choice to step away from parkour/freerunning and serve full-time as a missionary was difficult. He was at the top of his game and was competing in elite international events. His career, in his own words, “was skyrocketing.”
But choosing to serve a mission, he said, “taught me about surrendering everything worldly and using my agency to serve others instead of myself.”.
Calen worried he would be prohibited from utilizing his parkour skills while on his mission in New Zealand. But during their first interview, his mission president told the young elder to find opportunities to use his athletic talents to connect with others.
Elder Chan helped make a YouTube missionary/parkour video and even befriended some of the local parkour communities.
The two returned-missionaries — Calen and Reagan — were reunited in 2019. On October 26th of that same year, they married in the Provo City Center Temple.
Elite parkour athletes Calen and Reagan Chan were married in the Provo City Center Temple after both returned home from full-time missions. (Photo courtesy of the Chans)
While the Chans are both elite parkour athletes, the sport is not the defining element of their relationship. “Sometimes we forget that we do parkour…. And there are so many things that I love about Reagan beyond just parkour,” said Calen.
Parkour/freerunning & personal goals await
There are, of course, inherent dangers in practicing parkour. For the uninitiated, the sport seems to defy gravity and physics. But the Chans agree that experienced parkour/freerunning athletes exercise extreme responsibility. Seemingly risky tricks are performed only after mastering a series of “progression” techniques. Practitioners even learn proper ways to fall to avoid serious injury.
“I'm able to jump straight up and do half of a backflip and land upside down basically on my head,” said Calen. “But I twist my body in a way so that it collapses safely and I don't get injured.”
Looking ahead, the Chans hope to start a family soon, which means Reagan will likely take a break from the sport in the near future. Calen, meanwhile, hopes to continue his ascent in an international freerunning world that is becoming increasingly competitive.
“I still have a goal to win an international competition,” he said. “I've gotten to the finals in eight of them and I've placed third in three of them. I haven't gotten second yet, and I haven't gotten first yet. So that's still a big goal of mine.”
The married returned missionaries know that they are being watched by others in the parkour community because of their Latter-day Saint beliefs. They are often asked questions about their faith from both competitors and fans.
The Chans even befriended one fan named Isaiah who then began investigating the Church and listening to the missionary lessons. “I was able to baptize him and now he’s our best friend,” said Calen.
Both Calen and Reagan also utilize their social media platforms to share their testimonies and the messages of the gospel.