Singapore school pupil sets world record at memory championships

Dhruv Manoj outperformed 20 other competitors in his age group of 12 and below to top the "names and faces" discipline at the World Memory Championship in Jakarta.
Dhruv Manoj outperformed 20 other competitors in his age group of 12 and below to top the "names and faces" discipline at the World Memory Championship in Jakarta. PHOTO: SINGAPORE MEMORY SPORTS ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - A Singapore primary school pupil broke the children's category world record in one section of the World Memory Championships held in Jakarta earlier this month (Dec 1-3).

Dhruv Manoj, 11, a Primary 5 pupil at Sembawang Primary School, outperformed 20 other competitors in his age group of 12 and below to top the "names and faces" discipline. Memory athletes at the international memory sport competition had 15 minutes to memorise names and faces and 30 minutes to recall and pen their answers. Dhruv was able to match 96 names to faces correctly, of the 240 given.

The previous record of 88 names and faces was set by Indonesian student Shafa Annisa Rahmadani Arianata when she was 11, at the Hong Kong Open 2015.

The overall new world record set at the championships in Jakarta was 212 names and faces by Mongolia-born Yanjaa Wintersoul, 23.

The 111 competitors in this year's World Memory Championships took part in 10 events each, in which they had to memorise and recall various items, such as random words, random digits and the order of a deck of cards.

For each event, they were ranked overall against all other competitors, and also against competitors in their own age group - kids (12 and under), junior (13 to 17), adult (18 to 59), and senior (60 and above).

There were five competitors representing Singapore.

Said Dhruv when he learnt that he had not only won his category but also set a new world record for his age group: "I was so excited... It was unexpected and seriously cool."

He also won in the "random words" category for his age group where competitors had 15 minutes to memorise a list of random words and 30 minutes to recall and pen down the words. He remembered 154 random words from a list of about 380 words.

Dhruv's interest was sparked by an article on memory sports his father showed him and he has been training since two years ago. The Singapore permanent resident of Indian nationality credited his recent good showing to intensive training over three weeks leading up to the World Memory Championships.

He trained for at least four hours a day, practising for the different events, following a schedule that his father, Dr Manoj K Prabhakar, 45, a management consultant, drew up.

The niche area of memory sports has gained mainstream attention in recent years, in part due to TV shows featuring memory athletes such as Chinese reality programme The Brain, in which contestants memorise vast amounts of information. Furniture retailer Ikea has also featured memory athlete Yanjaa Wintersoul in its marketing campaign to promote its 2018 catalogue.

Mr Wellon Chou, 28, president of the Singapore Memory Sports Association, hopes that Dhruv's performance will inspire more Singaporeans to take to the mental sport.

He said: "Breaking a world record will definitely help with promoting memory sport in Singapore... If an 11-year-old kid could do it, we should all give it a try."