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Wayne Ngan forms a triangle using his yo-yo. Photo by Mark Balson
Wayne Ngan. Photo by Mark Balson

String Theory

U of T’s yo-yo master finds the secret to unwinding

Wayne Ngan has yet to complete his PhD in astronomy and astrophysics – but he has managed to discover inner cosmic balance while studying galactic mysteries. His secret? Mastering the art of the yo-yo.

Last August, the University of Toronto graduate student travelled to Calgary for the 2012 Canadian Yo-Yo Nationals. Ngan manipulated both butterfly- and imperial-shaped yo-yos to create intricate looping tricks, bouncing the yo-yo off the string and, unusually, mixing four yo-yoing styles. “Combining all styles into a single routine was probably shocking for some viewers,” says Ngan, 27. “But I think bringing something fresh to the table worked to my advantage.” It did – he finished third in the open freestyle division.

Despite his success, Ngan plans to return his yo-yoing to its roots – as an activity that relieves stress, rather than creates it. “I don’t want to associate it with the pressures and anxieties of a competition,” he says. Like video gaming, the art of yo-yoing requires hands-on skills and lots of practice. But Ngan’s game doesn’t cause carpal tunnel or confine him to the house. “It’s relaxing, fun and rewarding,” he says.

When the current president of the University of Toronto Yo-Yo Club isn’t researching dark matter in galaxy halos, you can probably find him effortlessly swinging a yo-yo around his head in horizontal circles (without getting a concussion) at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology every other Sunday afternoon. “There’s a steep learning curve, but you can’t be afraid to stray from the rules,” he says. “That’s how some of the most amazing tricks are invented.”

Watch Wayne Ngan perform yo-yo magic.

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