These champs are anything but squares
There's no football, basketball or hockey playoffs to look forward to for a while, but the ultimate sport for 80s fans -- Speed Cubing -- is right in the home-stretch of its own world championships. That's right: Solving the Rubik Cube is a big deal to fans around the world.
The 2007 U.S. Open was last weekend in Chicago (yeah, the same weekend as the U.S. Open in golf -- cool, eh?). Ryan Patricio won, solving his cube in an average of 14.92 seconds during the final round. Patricio now advances to the World Rubik's Cube Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in October.
Former cubing champion Tyson Mao, who offered puzzle-solving tips to Stuck in the 80s a few months ago, didn't place. As an organizer of the Open, Mao was busy making sure the even ran smoothly. But his 18-year-old brother Toby Mao placed second. That's keeping it in the family.
The Rubik Cube has enjoyed a real renewal of popularity over the last couple weeks. Hasbro, which has U.S. rights to the puzzle nowadays, says sales were up 32 percent in 2006 over the same period in 2005. Hasbro has created a great website -- www.rubiks.com -- for cubing fans. The site includes a seven-step tutorial from Tyson Mao on solving the puzzle.
80s: Hey Tyson. Now that you're such a high profile competitor, is there any added pressure on you?
Mao: "Not really. In the end, the only thing that matters is your time, and neither your name, or your status will change the abilities that you have."
80s: Good attitude! So then what sort of special training do you do for competitions?
Mao: "I mostly spend my time preparing to run the competition smoothly, so I don't actually practice too much. My times suffer a little as a result, but that's the price of being an organizer."
80s: A pretty big sacrifice on your part! So which cube do you choose to compete with? The standard one or one of the newer customized puzzled?
Mao: "I use a standard cube, but I've sprayed the pieces with silicon spray."
80s: Slick idea, Tyson. What other strategies do you use for competitions vs. exhibitions?
Mao: "In competitions, you need to really keep your head on straight. It's too easy to get emotional after a poor solve, and bad emotions will only hinder your solving."