String king

String king

Becoming a yo-yo champion is not just fun and games, it calls for dedication and hours of practice

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Peter Pong Yoyo_L
Photo: May Tse/SCMP
To the majority of Hongkongers a yo-yo is just a toy. But when the toy gets into Peter Pong Si-yee's hands, you can see just how versatile it can be.

The 15-year-old student from CCC Rotary Secondary School in Wong Tai Sin has become the talk of the town since winning the European Yo-Yo Championship in Prague, Czech Republic, in January.

The new European champion faced many top guns at the contest, including world number 2, Sebastian Brock. But he had no time to feel nervous as he was the first of the 11 competitors to perform in the A1 category (single-handed string tricks). "I didn't see others' perform, so I didn't feel much pressure on the day," he says.

In yo-yo tournaments, players get no second chances. They have just three minutes in which to impress the judges. Peter says he did not start off well, but as his performance progressed, his fast and creative moves stunned the judging panel. He scored 92.93 out of 100 and this helped him to bag his first major title.

It was not just the competition that created challenges. "Because of the dry, cold weather in Prague, the cuts on my hands caused by the high-speed action of the string did not heal quickly," he says.

His performance might have only lasted three minutes, but it took Peter years to reach this standard.

He started his love affair with the yo-yo at the age of 11. "I watched a cartoon about yo-yos on TV and I found the sport amazing," he says. "I was excited and I wanted to learn more advanced skills."

In order to learn more tricks, he joined a non-profit organisation for yo-yo lovers called HereWeYo in Hong Kong. There, he met the guys who would change his life.

Simpson Wong Wai-sheuk, Ron Chan Kwok-san, and Walter Wong Wa-kit saw Peter was much faster with his yo-yo than others and decided to help him.

Three years before, Ron and Walter had quit their jobs and started to run their own professional-level yo-yo company, 3yoyodesign.

"When we were teenagers in the 1990s, we did not have the financial support to compete," Simpson explains. "Now we use the revenue from our business to sponsor yo-yo athletes to compete in international tournaments. Peter is the first one." They paid for Peter's trip to Prague.

Once at HereWeYo, Peter practised in earnest. "The guys and I created some fast tricks with high levels of difficulty, involving many parts of my body," he says. In fact, some of his tricks are so fast they cannot be captured by a camera.

Whenever Peter and the guys have ideas for new tricks, they get together to discuss them. First, they see if they are viable and if not, work out ways to make them practical.

"The guys are always giving me technical support and we also discuss strategy. I am glad I always have back-up," Peter says.

The group's partnership was not always this smooth. In the early days, Peter won many local competitions, but he did not heed the trio's advice. Then, in 2010, he entered the Asia Pacific Yo-yo Championship in Singapore.

"I made it to the final, but I didn't do well," he says. "I realised then that I would stay a local player unless I listened to the guys." He started to treat communication with his team as an important element to success.

Very soon he will have his own special-edition yo-yo on the market. "My sponsor let me choose my favourite colours and they are going to paint them with my signature on the yo-yo as a special edition model to celebrate my victory," he says.

Peter's next target is the World Yo-yo Championships to be held in Florida, US, in August. So, maybe the next time he talks to Young Post, he will have a new title.

Watch Peter's lighting-fast performance at the European Yo-Yo Championship below.

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