RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And Brazil is on a roll with world championships - last year's soccer World Cup, then, next year, it's hosting the Summer Olympics, and in between, this year, the Rubik's Cube World Championship. Yes, the 3-D puzzle game that was a huge hit in the '80s is still a big deal to some people. Hundreds of cubers from more than 40 countries converged on Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the championship. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was there.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Full disclosure, I've never successfully finished a Rubik's Cube, so it's pretty humbling here at the Rubik's Cube World Championship to meet 4-year-old Yani Chan. Let me repeat, she is 4 years old. And she holds the world record for the youngest person to have taken part in an official competition. When she's not cubing, she's got a toy bunny in her hand.
YANI CHAN: (Unintelligible).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: She also can't really speak, so it's a short interview. But her hands are flying. So, OK, I'm now duly awed, and I'm going to delve into the world of competitive speed cubing, as it's known. The best of the best are here.
KEVIN HAYS: Everyone knows the toy the Rubik's Cube, and just being able to solve it is like a really cool thing. And if you want to solve it fast, it's even cooler.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's 21-year-old American college student Kevin Hays, a world champion in a few cubing events. So this is how it works. The original Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 by a Hungarian architect. These days, there are loads of different categories you can compete in. The classic cube, which is the three-by-three, nine squares to a side, this is still the gold standard. You can cube one-handed or blindfolded or with your feet. Yes, you heard me. The current record-holder in that category is from Poland. His name is Jakub Kipa. He solved the cube in 20.57 seconds with his feet.
How did you start using your feet for this?
JAKUB KIPA: I wanted to try myself in something different.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you like it?
KIPA: Yeah, really.
KIPA: Because I'm good in this event.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I asked him to show me how it's done, but he says after a sweaty day at the conference, a show-and-tell with bare feet wouldn't be pleasant. I concur.
On Sunday, Australian Feliks Zemdegs, who is considered the fastest speedcuber on the planet, won the day after clocking 5.69 seconds in the final. His prediction is that humans are getting as fast as they can go on the regular old Rubik's Cube. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo.
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