When most of us get bored waiting at a doctor's office or sitting on the bus, we play games, browse the Web or text our friends. But Zach Gormley has another activity that he uses to keep himself occupied, and it's led him to a world championship tournament.
The 16-year-old is one of the world's best yo-yo competitors. He's been at it for five years now, and next month, the Colorado teen will put his skills to the test at the 21st annual Modern World Yo-Yo Contest in Orlando, Florida. But he won't be as nervous for the big competition as you might think -- this year marks his fourth time competing at the event.
“I’m really excited to hang out with all the people and compete and do tricks,” he told The Coloradoan.
Watch the video above to see his impressive tricks and "string formations" for yourself.
Other young athletes in unconventional sports are also making their way to world championships. This week, 19-year-old Marc Arnold was crowned U.S. Junior Chess Champion, beating out every top chess player in the nation under the age of 21 for the title. And next month, a group of American teens will take their ping-pong talents to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
In an interview with CNN, one of the ping-pong champs, 16-year-old Ariel Tsing, offered the following advice to other young athletes: "I would just tell people to always fight for their dreams and just try really, really hard to go for it."
Take one look at Aly Raisman's floor routine -- a breathless 90 seconds of powerful aerial flips and twists peppered with graceful dance elements -- and you'll see why she's ready to be an Olympic contender. The routine earned her second place at the 2012 American Cup this past weekend. If she performs as well at the Olympic Trials in late June, she'll take a spot on the women's U.S. gymnastics team. "I'm excited. I'm anxious. And I'm just kind of ready for it to happen. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for it," <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/16/152752207/gymnasts-journey-toddler-tumbler-to-golden-girl" target="_hplink">she told NPR</a>.
Gymnast Jordyn Wieber took home gold at the World Championships in Tokyo last year at just 16. The Olympics are well within her reach. But refreshingly enough, Jordyn still has a normal life -- well, as normal as an Olympic hopeful's can be. "I like having a separate group of friends to go to the movies with and get my mind off gymnastics. I like being a normal student," <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=wieberfever" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>.
Lee Kiefer's fencing career began in her dining room with lessons from her dad. The lessons paid off: At 17, she qualified to join the American foil team in London this summer. But she hasn't let her success go to her head. "Of course, I want to get a medal this year, and I know I can put up a fight. But I don't want to set myself up to be disappointed. [By 2016], I hope to be at my best. I know I haven't reached that point yet," <a href="http://espn.go.com/high-school/girl/story/_/id/7872314/lee-kiefer-represent-us-fencing-london-olympics" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>.
This is the first Olympic Games in which women will be able to compete for boxing medals, and it appears that 17-year-old Claressa Shields could very well earn the first. Currently, she's ranked first in the nation in her weight class and recently qualified for the Olympics. Shields feels her best when she's in the ring. "Sometimes, it's like all your problems go away," <a href="http://espn.go.com/high-school/girl/story/_/id/7899778/claressa-shields-hopes-make-us-women-boxing-team" target="_hplink">she told ESPN</a>. "It's just time to take care of business once you get in there. I like that. Once you get in there, you've got to go the extra mile."
Touted as the next Michael Phelps <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/sports/olympic-hopeful-missy-franklin-loves-her-high-school-team.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">by the <em>New York Times</em></a>, 17-year-old Missy Franklin will be a favorite to make the U.S. women's swimming team at the Olympic Trials in June. Last summer, she came home from the world championships in Shanghai with five medals. "A lot of people think of swimming as an individual sport, but I've always loved the team aspect," Franklin, who still competes for her high school, told the <em>New York Times</em>.