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Old 08-18-2008, 07:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Extreme Yo-Yos

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View: The Ups and Downs of Competition
Source: NYTimes
posted with the TFP thread generator

The Ups and Downs of Competition
August 19, 2008
The Ups and Downs of Competition
By JOHN BRANCH
ORLANDO, Fla. — The art of flinging a yo-yo is almost unrecognizable to those who have not seen it done well in the past decade or so. At the recent World Yo-Yo Contest here, it was immediately obvious that yesterday’s forgotten up-and-down string toy is today’s “extreme sport you can carry in your pocket,” the yo-yoer Andrew Arvesen said.

The seven championship disciplines — six more than when the annual contest began in 1992 — have nothing to do with walking the dog or rocking the baby. Some yo-yos are tied not to fingers but to counterweights like casino dice or rubber balls. Some yo-yos are flung intentionally from their string and are recaptured by nothing more than friction and a magician’s timing.

The competitions are frenetic three-minute routines filled with tricks performed too fast to make sense of them all. The best bring the knowing fans to their feet, and will be seen and imitated by thousands, maybe millions, who watch the replays on the Internet.

If that is not enough to demonstrate just how much things have changed for the yo-yo, consider that a title contender from Singapore dislocated his knee during a preliminary round and was taken away in an ambulance.

The contest from July 31 to Aug. 2 drew 196 competitors from 20 countries, mostly teenage boys, who exuded an unthreatening and brainy counterculture vibe. They looked like skateboarders stuck inside on a rainy day.

Many admitted to not quite fitting in back home, where no one seems to take the yo-yo as seriously as they do. Most dressed in black T-shirts and wore their hair long. They had callused middle fingers and forearms scarred by string marks, and often carried backpacks or hard cases filled with yo-yos, some costing hundreds of dollars.

The younger competitors were chaperoned by proud parents or grandparents, willing to keep their distance to let the children convey cool.

“The key is to make it seem hip to the kids but safe to the parents,” said Jack Ringca, a cherub-faced 30-year-old with dark hair and several hoop earrings. He leads the 70-member Duncan Crew, experts from nine countries charged with spreading yo-yo’s gospel. To that end, Ringca recently accompanied the punk-tinged Warped and the metal-edged Ozzy Osbourne concert tours.

“Every subculture that has a current of cool under it, we try to harness that,” he said.

Practicing contestants filled the corners of a ballroom and spread into the Rosen Plaza Hotel’s corridors, allowing enough space to send a yo-yo, or two, into orbit. Passing guests invariably watched in wonder.

The Japanese routinely have the strongest contingent, winning most of the events with dizzying precision. The Americans have a reputation for favoring the big moves, even if it means that routines stall with knotted strings or fumbled yo-yos. Last year, the former national champion Augie Fash tossed his yo-yo so high that the string caught in the chandelier 20 feet above the stage. The yo-yo kept spinning. The fans loved it. The judges did not.

But any national rivalries are just loose slipknots untangled by the Internet, where tricks are traded and friendships are tied.

“They have the language of the string,” Gregory Cohen, the event’s organizer, said.

It sounded like spin until Takeshi Matsuura, a pint-sized Japanese 11-year-old, lifted the crowd with his speed and showmanship. When he was pronounced the world champion of his division, the 11 other finalists converged and gleefully tossed him into the air. No translation necessary.

It is not entirely clear how a sleepy little toy, mostly forgotten in the drawers of teenage boys everywhere, suddenly became revolutionary. But Dale Oliver is a good place to start.

He was 15 in 1955 when he became a Duncan man, paid by the dominant yo-yo maker to demonstrate the toy for kids, mostly boys ages 8 to 15, still the target market. For decades, the traveling small-town yo-yo contests were little more than compulsories.

“Twenty-five people doing the same 10 tricks?” Oliver said. “That’s boring.”

He pushed the idea of freestyle routines. In 1992, he started the World Yo-Yo Contest and won it, which was indicative of yo-yo’s sliding pop-culture status. The toy had skipped most of a generation.

But youngsters were roused by the advent of the ball-bearing transaxle, allowing the yo-yo to spin forever, or so it seemed. Tricks became easier. Attention spans lengthened.

When the string was tied to a fixed axle, a yo-yo might spin for a few seconds before friction stopped it.

“You could barely do ‘Rock the Baby’ and your yo-yo would be dying,” said Bill de Boisblanc, a national grandmaster who won the World Yo-Yo Contest in 1994, 1995 and 1997.

There once were two basic styles: one hand and two hands, eventually split into contest divisions 1A and 2A. Some experimental yo-yoers, like Mark McBride, Jon Gates and Steve Brown, now in their 30s, stretched the possibilities. Now there are seven divisions, including one for artistic performance. Another is a mix of events, a sort of yo-yo triathlon.

Each stretches the limits of physics. In 4A, the off-string division, some competitors cast the string, like a whip or a fishing rod, and wrapped it around the axle of an airborne yo-yo. The string-on-string friction was enough for the string to virtually tie itself and snare the spinning yo-yo. It was like watching a frog’s tongue zap a fly.

Many of today’s best yo-yoers became interested after stumbling across videos of previously unimaginable tricks on the Internet. The yo-yo’s recent spurt is largely propelled by people learning on the Web. (Duncan’s sales are up 30 percent this year, said Mike Burke, its sales and marketing manager.)

“It’s kind of looked down on to straight-out copy a trick,” said Jon Martin, 20, of Tampa, Fla. “So you just add on, which adds to the counterculture aspect. You create your own style.”

The only limits are in the imagination. The 10 standard tricks from the old contests are as dated as quill pens.

“If you do the same routine as the year before, you’ll probably finish 5 or 10 places lower, just because the level of play is improving so quickly,” said Fash, the chandelier-hooking yo-yoer.

At the World Yo-Yo Contest, six judges tracked it all, mostly with their hands hidden under the table, each holding a counter. One thumb added points for great moves. The other thumb subtracted for mistakes.

De Boisblanc, the head judge, oversaw the crew. At 67, he no longer officiates individual events.

“I can’t keep up with all the tricks,” he said.

One day, the crowd gathered largely to see Shinji Saito, the six-time winner in the 2A division, where competitors resemble people trying to fight out of an invisible box using a pair of spinning, looping rotors on strings. Saito, a slight 18-year-old with an outburst of curly hair, is widely considered the best yo-yoer in the world.

His yo-yos spun feverishly as Saito used his body as a prop. They looped around his neck, his legs, his arms, his head. On his back, he tangled the two strings intentionally while keeping the yo-yos twirling. Saito flipped to his feet, then repeated the trick. He finished to a big ovation, his chest heaving. But experts spotted more mistakes than usual.

At the awards presentation, Saito received a second-place trophy. A collective “ooh” swept through the ballroom. Takuma Yamamoto was named the winner, and the crowd cheered loud and long for the new champion.
I used to love to play with my Duncan yo-yos. I had a Duncan Wheel which was my favorite butterfly model. I had various yo-yos over the years, and in the middle of the 90s, I stopped carrying one in my pocket. I could only do a few tricks like around the world, rock the cradle, and walk the dog.

The other day I was going into work and I saw a LED flash in front of me. I was sure it was a yo-yo, and sure enough it was a lady who was actually yo-yoing as she was walking into the office.

I had heard that there were some incredible yo-yos a few years back. Some of them running in the 10s of dollars being made of machined materials and ball bearing axles. Today's article in the NYTimes made me look up some of the exotics, and also look for videos of the comepetions.

Amazing!

2008 World Yo-Yo Contest - Orlando Florida - July 31st, August 1st, 2nd

Display Videos Yo-Yoing.com Beta 5.5

Tadashi Kitagawa - 1A - WYYC 2006
Yuuki Spencer - 1A - WYYC 2006
woo8World Yo-Yo Contest 5A 1st Takeshi Matsura(take2)

Did you yo-yo? Can you do any tricks? What were some of your favorite yo-yos?
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Old 08-18-2008, 08:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I sucked at yo-yo-ing, just like I did hoola-hooping. I could rarely get the danged thing to come back up more than 3 times in a row. The Wheel-O, also known at the magnetic gyro wheel, was my choice.
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Old 08-19-2008, 12:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Looks like the humble yo-yo has come on quite a bit since my youth.
Going to have to look them up again, thanks for the article Cyn!
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Old 08-19-2008, 03:24 AM   #4 (permalink)
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My brother and I got in to yo-yos in the late 90s. It EXPLODED at our school(s) during that time, every single person had a yo-yo and everyone thought they were awesome. Then it sort of died down again after 3-4 years.

I could do all sorts of advanced tricks and stuff, and I had one of those ball-bearing yo-yos that could spin for over an entire minute at the bottom on a throw.

An important thing to realize in these videos is that the yo-yo is spinning the entire time! All of the tricks they do depend on the yo-yo remaining a vortex of spin, so all of those "cat's cradle" tricks and stuff are with the yo-yo spinning like 90 MPH!

They are great fun and I've always considered getting another one!!!!!!!
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Old 08-19-2008, 05:22 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Back in the 90's when the Smothers Brothers had a short tv show revival, Tommy Smothers would come out as YoYo Man. I had no idea the things he could do were even being done. I totally sucked at yo yo-it'd go down and stay there.
A little nostalgia:

Last edited by ngdawg; 08-19-2008 at 08:27 AM..
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Old 08-19-2008, 06:12 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Let`s just say I haven`t seen a Yo-Yo in years, and when i had one i used to bang the thing into my head when i tried to do "around the world" so let`s just say it did not go down while and i lost my cool and smashed it against the pavement.
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Old 08-19-2008, 08:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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two words..

"olympic sport"

nuff said
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Old 08-19-2008, 09:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Lewis Black would say something like, "That's WAY too fucking creative for a toy with string!!!"
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Old 08-20-2008, 04:11 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlish View Post
two words..

"olympic sport"

nuff said
I don't see why not.. I just found out today that BMX biking was an olympic sport..

My daughter came home with a yo-yo and I showed her some of the easy tricks and it was like I hung the moon, at least for about 15 minutes then she reverted back to teen angst mode...
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Old 08-20-2008, 08:31 AM   #10 (permalink)
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since its 'judged' by judges, some people may think it shouldnt be included into the olympics. see tilted sport thread
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I've been collecting Yo-yos since I was a kid. I have a little over 300.
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:26 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I used to have a sweet butterfly yoyo by Duncan. I was starting to master some advanced tricks when they went out of style. I probably have it still lying around somewhere; I'll have to pick it up again sometime.
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Old 08-20-2008, 07:46 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Yo yo's and the Smothers brothers..................that is a double blast from the past. The 70's were quite an adventure. I hate a lot of you missed the decade. A whole different mindset in the 70's and IMO the best decade for music ever. Santana, Chicago, Led Zeppelin, I could go on and on.
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