Spinning up New Popularity | Patrick Lin

A sport is defined as a competitive physical activity that provides entertainment for the participants and spectators. But who defines how much physical activity is physical? Promoters of unconventional sports such as speedcubing (Rubik’s), chess, and competitive eater might argue that the definition of sports has expanded to encompass activities that many consider trivial.

One of these trivial activities is yo-yoing. For those who are not sure how a yoyo works, a yoyo is an object made of 2 disks, an axle, and a string tied to it. Most people think a yoyo is only a children’s toy and can only be played by throwing the yoyo down and letting it roll back up, rinse and repeat.  But the yoyo has experienced resurgence in modern times since its inception in the 1930s. First created by Pedro Flores and later developed by Donald Duncan, the creator of the Duncan Company, the yoyo has become one of the America’s favorite toys and pastimes. In fact, the name “Yo-yo”, which was trademarked by the famous Duncan Company since the 50s, has become so common that a federal court rules that Duncan had no longer held the rights to the term. Now, Yo-yoing is quickly gaining popularity, as more than 1000 players from over 30 countries will be attending the 2014 World Yoyo Contest, which will be for the first time held in another country, in Prague, Czech Republic. The International Yoyo Federation, created in 2013 to consolidate the multiple national yoyo associations in several countries, stepped out with US, Czech Republic, Japan, and Brazil as its first members.

The first ever World Yo-yo Contest was held in 1932, but the current format of World Yo-yo Contest, organized by the International Yo-yo Federation, began in 1992. At the contest, the competition is judged on two criteria, compulsory tricks and freestyle. Compulsory tricks are yoyo tricks selected by judges before the contest that competitors have to complete without mistake. The freestyle part comprises of competitors performing whatever tricks they want. Assigning points based on difficulty of tricks, artistic performance, and music synchronization, the judge choses a World Champion.

Some of the coolest yoyo tricks that appear at the contest are ones most people could never imagine. As the competition judges the technical section based on cleanliness, variation, rareness, and execution, competitors strive to create the most unique and sharp tricks to show on the national stage. They throw their yoyos off their strings and catch them, untie the string from their fingers, juggle two yoyos at once, or even manipulate their yoyos to spin sideways. Then the performance section judges music use, body control, space use, and showmanship; competitors creatively lay on their back, dubstep dance, or try creative antics to get the audience’s attention or bolster their points.

Just like the Color guard or rhythmic gymnastics, the emerging sport of yo-yoing is a physical activity requiring physical skill, is governed by a set of regulations and rules, and is a highly competitive activity. Even though it isn’t physically exhausting like tennis, lacrosse, or swimming, Yo-yoing requires significant physical dexterity and agility. In fact, depends on the competitor, and some competitors like to breakdance and do backflips on stage, it does require physical prowess to some degree. As the attendees of the contest shoot from hundreds to thousands, from Florida to Prague and Tokyo, yoyo-ers around the world watch as yoyo-ing gradually grows from a children’s toy to an international sport.

Patrick Lin is a staff writer for Pulse Magazine and a yoyo enthusiast.