I ask Šedivý if it’s difficult to yo-yo while in the proximity of such excellent Czech Pilsner beer, and he immediately answers, “If you are Czech, it’s not difficult. When we go to other countries, we bring them beer, and then we have the advantage!”
After hours of continuous yo-yoing, Cuartero finally announces the winners. The Japanese players sweep in both categories, with Shinya Kido winning the 1A Division and Hiraku Fujii taking the X Division. The big upset? Last year’s winner, John Ando, must settle for third place and second place in those divisions, respectively. Each winner receives $500, a trophy, and free round-trip travel to defend their title next year.
Watching an entire afternoon of hard-core yo-yo action is similar to watching, say, five straight hours of juggling. It’s initially quite amazing, and then it seems the point has been made. You have tamed the plastic object and made it do your bidding. No matter the skill, it gets repetitive from the standpoint of the uninitiated. There’s no real element of danger like there is in car racing or boxing. But occasionally, someone will pull out a performance so spectacular -- like lying on one’s back and having two yo-yos going every which way at blinding speeds -- that I realize it’s still something I could never do in a million years.
One of these razzle-dazzlers, Joseph Harris, gives such a compelling performance, and in his stocking feet no less, that every other competitor stops to watch. He comes offstage dripping in sweat and then pauses to catch his breath. “It’s a sport,” he says. “It really is. It should be in the Olympics …”
Harris is from Oahu, Hawaii, originally, and he toured with Cuartero back in the Team High Performance days. Now he studies finance at the University of San Francisco.
“When you hear the crowd cheer after a trick, that’s what a lot of the players live for. You see these younger kids?” he asks, gesturing to a couple of 10-year-olds backstage who are excitedly showing each other a trick. “They’re totally addicted. I used to be like that too.… It keeps you away from video games, television, and other negative influences. It’s a good addiction.”