A resident of Brimley, Michigan is gearing up for Canada’s largest yo-yo competition.
Jordan Walker-Jenkins, who is a Canadian citizen born on this side of the river, will attempt to wow the crowd and a panel of judges during the Canadian National Return Top Championships this Sunday in Toronto.
“Modern yo-yo-ing isn’t just like, do walk the dog and then maybe rock the baby on stage,” said Walker-Jenkins from his home in Michigan. “It’s a lot more intricate.”
“You’re taking tricks and you’re stringing them together to make these yo-yo combos, if you will, that can last, I don’t know, maybe a good 30 seconds.”
Walker-Jenkins says that he caught his first glimpse of what a person could do with a yo-yo while on vacation with his parents in Florida when he was just seven years old.
“I was by the poolside, and I actually saw somebody using a yo-yo, and I was watching them,” Walker-Jenkins said. “My fascination was more stemmed from the fact that the yo-yo was spinning for as long as it was, allowing him to do all that stuff.”
Then, when as a grade seven student in Brimley, he received a yo-yo as a party favour.
Walker-Jenkins then began watching videos online, teaching himself how to pull off tricks.
He would practice before going to bed, and would take it with him to school and practice during lunch.
“I saved up a bit of money and got myself a yo-yo that could allow me to do the more complex, modern yo-yo tricks,” he said.
After a brief hiatus, Walker-Jenkins picked up the yo-yo in Grade 11 as way of coping with some ‘emotional stuff’ he was going through at the time.
Now, as an engineering student pursuing two degrees at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, he’s using his Canadian citizenship to see how he stacks up against the best ‘return-top specialists’ in the country.
“I have a green card,” Walker-Jenkins. “I never really became a U.S. citizen, which is why I’m eligible to compete in Canada nationals.”
Walker-Jenkins is sponsored by Rain City Skills, a Vancouver-based company that runs the Return Top Shop, which is Canada’s largest online yo-yo retailer.
He says that he’s got a lot to prove at the nationals this weekend as a sponsored competitor.
“In my mind, I just want to do well and show them that I deserve my sponsorship,” said Walker-Jenkins. “I don’t want to disappoint my boss, and I want to show people that ‘hey, I’m good at this.’”
Describing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a “yo-yo wasteland” due to a lack of interest in the region, Walker-Jenkins says the nationals also allows him the rare opportunity to check out yo-yo vendors and to mingle with other enthusiasts.
He’s even traveled as far as Cleveland, Ohio and Reykjavik, Iceland for the World Yo-Yo Contest just to be around other return top specialists.
“Yo-yo contests are an experience, whether you’re competing or not,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy going to them because it’s one of the only times I can grow as player through learning from others.”
Now, he’ll be traveling to Toronto to participate in his first high-profile competition.
He says that the experience itself will be somewhat nerve wracking due to the fact that he’ll be performing routines in front of people that “know what you’re doing and know what to look for and know when you screw up.”
Competitors are given a one-minute time limit for the preliminaries, and three minutes for the finals.
The Canadian champions will earn a spot in the World Yo-Yo Contest this summer.
Walker Jenkins says that should he reach the finals, he will incorporate about six combos into his routine.
“Your tricks, you generally want to have a set of them that has...a variety of different elements,” he said. “I’ve timed it a couple times, and it comes out usually to - if I go cleanly - two minutes and forty-three seconds if I time everything right.”
Video clips of Walker-Jenkins’ yo-yo skills can be seen on his Instagram account.