By Alex Hattori, 14, South HS (Torrance)
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Alex recently worked with the company YoYoJam to design a yo-yo called the C-Force that spins longer.

I’m known around school as “yo-yo boy.” I sometimes yo-yo at lunch after I finish eating. I always had a yo-yo with me at band camp last summer and I’d yo-yo during our dinner breaks. The other kids would say, “Whoa, how do you do that?” I’d tell them I practice a lot. I’ve been in more than 15 competitions and right now I’m ranked second in the world in double handed yo-yoing. 

It started in sixth grade. At lunch one day my friend was doing some tricks I had never seen before. I was curious because the yo-yo was landing on the string and balancing. The next day I brought my yo-yo to school and over the next week he showed me some tricks. 

My friend told me that at the Redondo Beach Pier there’s a store, called Sunshine Kite Company, where they teach yo-yoing on Saturdays. Every Saturday I’d ask Yoshi the teacher or his friends to show me a trick and I’d figure it out sometime during the week. 

I practiced every day. A month later, I competed in my first contest, the Southwest Regional. I wasn’t really nervous because I didn’t know how you win or get points. I placed first out of eight in the rookie division, which was exciting since it was my first competition. 

But at the next contest, I placed in the bottom half and was disappointed. I asked Yoshi how the scoring worked. I found out that when a person messes up a trick, they lose points. 

I knew I had to do tricks that were easier so I could land them perfectly. I learned one of the double-handed styles and I realized it was my specialty when I placed first in that division at a competition. After that I started making up my own tricks. I like yo-yoing because I can be more creative than in sports, like soccer.

I was a little nervous when I got on stage at my first world contest in Florida in August 2010 because it was the biggest contest I’d been to. There were hundreds of yo-yoers from different countries, like Japan, Australia and Italy, and many of them had been yo-yoing for years. I got ninth and I wanted to do better. I made a new routine for Nationals, which were that October, and practiced up to three hours a day on the weekends. 

At Nationals I got the title of Best Junior Player in the U.S. I was excited but my biggest goal was to win the world contest in the double-handed division. Most of the people who compete in the world contest are older and have been yo-yoing for 10 years or more. I like challenges and it would be the biggest challenge I’ve ever had. 

In July last year I started to make my three-minute routine for Worlds. First I chose my music, “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz. Then I synced my tricks to the music. To make a new trick I’d start with an old trick and move the yo-yo onto a different section of the string. I picked the tricks that looked the hardest because the harder a trick looks the more points you get. My favorite part of the routine was my first trick. It was the fastest trick I had. My yo-yos were flying out from me and I mixed a couple tricks together; my hands were doing different things the whole time. 

I practiced non-stop for the world championships

After I made my routine I always had my iPod with me. I’d spend a couple hours a day doing my routine over and over. I tore my gloves because I was practicing so much. When I didn’t have my gloves, a few times I cut my finger on the string. 

Before the world contest I got sponsored by a yo-yo company called YoYoJam and I represented them at Worlds in Orlando. It was exciting to be sponsored by my favorite yo-yo company. It’s every yo-yoers dream to be sponsored because it shows you are dedicated. The team members are supportive. Some of them are world champions and I got to hang out with them and they gave me tips. 

At prelims I messed up a few of my tricks because I was nervous, but I ended up placing fourth and made it to the finals. I was the youngest one out of seven in the finals. Most were in their 20s. Finals were the next day, and I did almost nothing but practice my routine. The year before I hung out with my friends and watched all the divisions but this year I didn’t do any of that. 

When I got up on stage, I landed my first trick and that made me feel more relaxed. Then I kept landing all my tricks. I wasn’t thinking about anything. During one of my tricks, I looked at the audience and smiled and wasn’t even looking at my yo-yos. 

I walked off the stage smiling and I almost dropped my yo-yos when someone who is also sponsored by YoYoJam gave me a bear hug. When the results were announced, I found out I placed second! I was happy because all my hard work paid off.

I don’t want you to think I’m big headed because I’ve been talking about how well I do. Yo-yoing isn’t all about competing. I perform at fundraisers for charities like the American Cancer Society and the Pediatric Therapy Network. I know that yo-yoing isn’t something that others see every day because kids will ask me about it. I’m also still competing and I hope to win Worlds later this year.