As far as toys go, the yo-yo is one of the best. It fits all pockets and therefore you can bring it basically everywhere you go. If you develop a passion for the little round toy, you can learn some incredible tricks, which are fun to do and fun to watch. Prague’s Divadlo Ponec is the place to be this Saturday if you want to check out what the yo-yo is about.
The Czech Yo-Yo Nationals is the largest yo-yo event held in the Czech Republic and most likely in all of Europe, according to the organiser, the Czech Yo-Yo Association (CYA). Held since 2004, the event grows bigger every year and the organisers are expecting more than sixty yo-yoers to attend the competition. The show opens on Saturday 10 am with the qualification round lasting until 3 pm followed by the finals in all divisions: Beginners (boys under 15 and girls), Intermediate (compulsory tricks), 1A Advanced (Czech players), X Division (freestyle), Fast Challenge. As always, performers from abroad (Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Italy and the US) will attend the contest, but for the first time this year, they will compete in a separate Open division. Again this year, the 19-year-old 2006 and 2007 Czech Champion Václav Kroutil is competing.
The performers will do one, two or three-minute freestyle routines to their music of choice trying to score the most points. A group of five judges will look for string hits, level of difficulty and artistic performance. One of the judges, Jan Bechyně known as Brt, told me 70% of the points are based on technical skills. Basically, the competitors get points for the number of string hits they make to the yo-yo. The faster they do it and the more difficult tricks they make, the higher are their chances of winning.
Again this year, the CYA has invited some of the world’s best yo-yoers to make the contest more exciting. American player Yuuki Spencer who has won US Nationals and World Championship twice, Kentaro Kimura from Japan who is the 3A National champion and currently third in the world. Another famous participant to show up is Doctor Popular, a professional yo-yoer, musician, cartoonist and clothing designer from San Francisco. He has created a number of yo-yoing styles and runs a yo-yo company called Yes, Absolutely. Both of them will perform their incredible string and looping skills as part of the contest.
Czech yo-yoing didn’t start growing until 2000 when Brt and his friend decided to launch a yo-yo website and later started importing the toy to the Czech Republic. “I really liked the yo-yo though it wasn’t easy to learn the tricks as there was nobody around to show me,” he says. “The yo-yo is great. You can have it with you all the time and play it anytime you want. A friend of mine found it very useful while trying to quit smoking.”
Brt says the Czech yo-yo community is now one of the biggest in Europe with over 200 registered players and even more that are not members of the association. The Czech Yo-Yo Association was founded in 2005. It organises two annual bigger events – the nationals and the CYA Cup and a number of smaller events. In 2007, it hosted the European Yoyo Meeting, Europe’s biggest yoyo event.
In addition to watching head-spinning yo-yo tricks and the crowning of the 2008 Czech champions, you can try professional yo-yo equipment and learn some tricks. The admission is optional. You don’t have to pay anything unless you want to support the local yo-yo community. Once the contest is over, the event moves to a nearby club XT3 on Rokycanova to celebrate.