SINGAPORE - A Singaporean wowed a crowd of 300 people on Sunday (July 8) with his yo-yo tricks, bagging him second place in a regional yo-yo competition at Far East Square.
At one point, Mr Thawhir Iqbal was twirling two yo-yos at the same time, one in each hand. The 20-year-old even teased the crowd with a confident smile as he took his eye off his game to look at the audience.
Mr Thawhir faced Japanese Arata Imai, 19, in the final of the Champion Of Champions showdown of the Asia-Pacific Yo-Yo Championships 2018.
"I put in a lot of effort preparing for this. For the last six months, I spent up to two hours every day practising," said Mr Thawhir, who is waiting to start national service.
"I am honoured to be able to represent Singapore and make it to the final. But, apart from competing, I enjoyed making friends with those from other countries."
The competition drew 161 competitors from 15 countries in the region, including China, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore.
The three-day event, which ended on Sunday, saw enthusiasts from as young as 12 years old to age 34 compete over five categories, including the common single-hand string and the unique offstring style.
The Champion of Champions segment involved the five categories' winners, last year's defending champion, and two judges' choice - two of the best-performing runners-up in their categories.
The champion of each category received prizes worth $1,000, while the Champion of Champions took home $1,500 worth of prizes.
Mr Thawhir emerged second in the double-hand string category.
"Most of the time was spent on planning and preparing the tricks and routine, before going on to executing them. I also had to be very focused on the day of the competition," he said.
The yo-yo player, who first picked up the sport in 2006, dedicated his performance to his mother, whom he called his "biggest fan".
Mr Yi Cheng Hao from China, winner of the double-hand loop category, was overcome with emotion when he was announced the winner, raising his hands and falling to his knees, with tears streaming down his face.
"This is my second time taking part in this regional completion. Last year, I came in third for the same category. This victory is especially meaningful, because the Japanese are very strong and they are the benchmark of excellence in the sport, so to beat them really means a lot," said the 21-year-old, who has been playing the yo-yo for six years.
Through the sport, Mr Yi told The Straits Times in Mandarin, he has learnt the value of perseverance, and made friends with enthusiasts from other countries.
Head organiser Hans Wong-Jensen, 31, said the event, now into its 14th year, took six months to plan. It is part of the Singapore Street Festival.
Treasurer of the Yo-Yo Association of Singapore, Mr Wong-Jensen said the association currently has about 60 members aged 12 to 40.
"A couple of years ago, we saw a small growth in the number of enthusiasts, due to the kendama scene," he said, referring to a Japanese toy featuring a ball connected to a string on a stick.
Mr Wong-Jensen, who has been playing the yo-yo for 18 years, got into the sport because he found the tricks and variations of styles very interesting, and wanted to learn them himself.
He said: "The sport helps introverted people who are shy and quiet break the barrier and overcome their fear of socialising. It helps them express themselves, and acts as a confidence booster."
Enthusiasts are also drawn away from being addicted to mobile devices, added Mr Wong-Jensen.