It's Not Gold, But Fastest US Texter Wins Big

It may not be an Olympic sport, but Wisconsin teen Austin Wierschke was just named the fastest texter in America. The texting champion was awarded $50,000. Wierschke speaks with host Michel Martin about how he keeps his thumbs in shape.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, if you have ever had your wallet drained by your, or especially your teen's monthly texting bill, our next guest may give you hope. He is a Wisconsin teen who won $50,000 this week for his texting skills. Austin Wierschke successfully defended his title as the fastest texter in America in the LG U.S. National Texting Championship. The championship was sponsored by the cell phone maker LG Electronics. And Austin is with us now.

Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations.

AUSTIN WIERSCHKE: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Now I know you're fast, but can you give us an idea of how fast you are?

WIERSCHKE: I'm not exactly sure of this year's standings but last year they calculated it with characters per second and my fastest around last year was 6.2 characters per second.

MARTIN: Boy. I understand that you did some heavy preparation for this. You sent 500 texts a day to your friends.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Presumably they're your friends.

WIERSCHKE: Yeah. Yeah.

MARTIN: Are they still your friends when you sent 500 texts a day?

WIERSCHKE: I may have annoyed them a little but that's OK, they helped me practice and it pays off, I guess.

MARTIN: So the contest had three rounds and four challenges and I understand it blindfolded texting backwards? What?

WIERSCHKE: There was a few rounds. I think there was eight rounds. Some of them didn't count though because they were just practice ones.

MARTIN: OK.

WIERSCHKE: But I came in when they were six people left so it was the top seven. And then the round that I came in on, it was a text blitz, which was a phrase would pop up, you'd text it and if you got it wrong it would flash at you and you needed to redo it. But if you got it right, it would move onto the next phrase and you did that 10 times, and the top four people advanced. So I made it to the next round and then it was blindfolded.

MARTIN: And then it was blindfolded. So text blitz based on speed, texting backward and blindfolded. And so what was the hardest for you?

WIERSCHKE: I actually think a text blitz was definitely the hardest. It was the first round that I was there and the people on the stage already went through a few rounds so they were feeling pretty good. And I had to get up in front of a bunch of people in Times Square and defend my title. And I was just really nervous especially with all the fresh faces. And I did really well, which was really exciting.

MARTIN: You know, you text - I thought was it you tweeted out earlier or it was on your Facebook page a picture of your thumb, which is looking pretty nasty. Like there's like a big chew mark in it. That wasn't from texting, was it?

WIERSCHKE: Well, that picture is not - it was not my thumb, it was my index finger.

MARTIN: Oh, your index finger. Right. OK.

WIERSCHKE: And that was probably five months ago. My parents own a restaurant actually, back where we are from in, Rhinelander, Wisconsin. And I'm a chef there, so I was cutting something up and I sliced my finger. And so I was a little worried, I guess my texting career flashed before my eyes.

MARTIN: I bet it did.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Don't they know that that's your instrument?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What are they doing? I mean come on, folks. Well, speaking of your parents, how do they feel about this? Was it tough to convince them that you should be a competitive texter? I confess, it would've been hard to convince me, but...

(LAUGHTER)

WIERSCHKE: Well, to be honest, they didn't believe me at first last year when I was doing the qualification process. They were like yup, OK Austin, you go ahead, you do that and we're here for you. But they were still really skeptical until I finally got that call and said you made it to New York. So I called my mom immediately and I was like do you want to go to New York with me? And she's like, oh my gosh, are you serious? And I'm like, yeah.

MARTIN: Two-time defending champ. So what are you going to do with your prize money? I mean I hope it's not going to all pay your data plan.

(LAUGHTER)

WIERSCHKE: No. It's all going in my bank account with the other prize money that I've won because I really need to save for college and I want to get most of it paid off for it.

MARTIN: Well congratulations to you.

WIERSCHKE: Well, thank you.

MARTIN: How - what a great way to enter summer.

WIERSCHKE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Austin Wierschke won his second LG U.S. National Texting Championship yesterday, and he joined us from our NPR Bureau in New York.

You know, TTYL, Austin.

WIERSCHKE: Well, thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. And remember, to tell us more, please go to NPR.org and find us under the programs tab, you can find our podcast there. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter @TELLME MORENPR. I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE, from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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