Andrew Maider has only been yo-yoing for a few years, but he’s among the elite in the competitive sport of doing combos and tricks with the timeless toy.
The 16-year-old, who will be entering his junior year at Albany Academy next month, has twice won the Northeast regional championship and two weeks ago placed 17th in the finals of the world competition in Prague, Czech Republic.
That’s 17th out of nearly 1,000 mostly youthful competitors from around the world. The sport is popular in Japan and Europe, and just three Americans were in the finals.
“I had to go through four rounds to get there,” Maider said.
Maider has already earned his way into the national competition in California in October, and hopes make it to next year’s world championships in Tokyo.
It all started with a fifth-grade science teacher at Albany Academy, Maider said.
“My science teacher got me into it, and it became like a huge fad,” he explained. “I realized there was more to yo-yoing than just up and down.”
Others in the science class stopped, but Maider kept going, and went to the world finals for the first time in 2011, in Orlando. He made the semifinals in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before going to the finals this year, in his fourth world competition.
The oldest son of Richard and Susan Maider, Andrew tries to practice about two hours per day, which is hard
on a yo-yo. He can go through several strings a day and burn out the inner bearings every few weeks.
Maider may be most comfortable with a yo-yo in his hand. Once he throws it out, he can spin it, wrap the string around his forearm or neck, make a cat’s cradle, then quickly move on to the next combo. All those moves can be combined in competitive routines of two or three minutes, generally set to music.
Competitors are scored on technical skill, cleanness of performance and creativity.
At 16, Maider is only likely to get better, though few people stay in competition past their early 20s. This year’s world champion, Gentry Stein, from California, is 19.
“To me, they’re all phenomenal,” said Susan Maider.
Andrew, who maintains a high grade-point average and is on the school’s diving and track teams, plans to attend college and pursuing a career in business and marketing.
Competitive yo-yoing is a big enough sport that Maider even has a corporate sponsor, yo-yo maker Caribou Lodge, which supplies him with yo-yos — dozens of them — and covers his travel expenses, though not those of his mother, who traveled with him to the Prague competition.