Stephen “Langerz” Langley has just returned (ok, he’s been back for a while but I’m busy!) from Cracow in Poland after competing in the European YoYo Championships where he won the 3A division (string tricks with two yoyos). You can see a video of his performance at the bottom of this article.
Langley has been a familiar face in the UK and European yoyo scenes for many years. More recently he started working for Firetoys so we thought we’d have a chat about his trials, tribulations and triumph at the EYYC 2015 as well as the yoyo community in general.
Firetoys: Congratulations! How does it feel to be European champion?
Stephen Langley: Pretty good! It’s easily the biggest trophy I’ve ever won.
FT: You’re the first UK winner since 1953. Who was the previous UK winner and what division did they win (if there were divisions then)?
SL: The first was Don Robertson who I believe is from Essex. Back then it would have been a fixed axle contest as it was in the days before bearing axle yo-yos, even tricks that would be considered basic now would be incredibly difficult due to the yo-yos they were using in the 50s.
FT: Why do you think there has been a lack of UK winners since then? Are there many Brits that compete at events like EYYC?
SL: The UK scene is very small but there are some very notable players, Luke Roberts, Simon Welch, Matt Gallacher & Yuji Kelly have all won multiple UK titles and competed at larger events including the world yo-yo contest.
FT: Do you think your win could help grow the UK community?
SL: The UK yo-yo scene is a great community as it and the contests have grown over the years but I do hope more players get involved so the events can grow more.
FT: How many times have you entered the EYYC? Where have you placed before and why do you think you did better this time?
SL: This was my fourth time entering this division at EYYC, I placed 3rd all three times previous. My main rival didn’t attend this year unfortunately which definitely made it easier although I did put in a huge amount of practice hours which everyone in the office can attest to!
FT: You had a few problems in the run up to your competition performance, didn’t you? I think there was a missed alarm clock, a lack of trousers and, worst of all; you had your yoyos nicked. Tell us about that.
SL: Basically, don’t set your alarm for PM instead of AM and don’t leave your decent pair of trousers drying on the radiator. As for the yo-yos, it’s very unfortunate, but unfortunately these things do happen.
FT: Did you get your yoyos back?
SL: Unfortunately not, at the very least I hope someone in Poland gets some enjoyment out of them.
FT: That is a very positive attitude! What yoyos did you use in the performance? Were they the yoyos you would have used had yours not been stolen? If not, what is your preferred yoyo for 3A?
SL: Luckily due to some fantastic people, I managed to get my hands on the yo-yos I had been practicing with, the Werrd 86400’s
FT: What sort of training do you do to prepare for competitions?
SL: Hours and hours a day of practise, listening to the same 3 minutes of music over and over again. (Sorry Harriet [Langley’s long-suffering fiancé])
FT: Did you enter the competition expecting to win?
SL: Hoping, but not expecting. You never know what’s going to happen, some of the most seasoned yo-yo veterans have unlucky knots, restarts and discards on stage.
FT: Who was your main competition?
SL: This year I was most fearful of an Icelandic gentleman called Palli Gudmundsson who placed 2nd, however Lorenzo Sabatini is always a threat in every division and has previously won the division in 2010.
FT: Can you talk us through your performance? It looked like you escaped a potentially serious tangle at one point. What was the hardest trick you landed in the performance? Are there any tricks you missed or intended to include but didn’t?
SL: The hardest trick I landed is probably the ‘Follow’ kink mount trick toward the end as there are SO many points where it can go wrong. The point with the tangle was pretty unfortunate as that particular problem hasn’t happened to me in about two years and that unfortunately meant I didn’t have enough time for the last trick.
FT: Were you happy with the performance? Did you know you’d won when you finished it or was it a close run thing?
SL: It’s pretty tense up there and it’s a pretty risky division, hardly anyone goes completely clean so overall I’m pretty happy. It was very close between myself and Palli but I try not to watch other people at the time as it’s pretty off putting, so I had no idea.
FT: What prizes did you win, or do you just get a trophy and the prestige of being champion?
SL: There were prizes, but really, the trophy is prize enough.
FT: What’s the EYYC community like? Is it as friendly and supportive as the juggling community? Are any rivalries friendly or can it get a bit nasty?
SL: Having been to every EYYC in my lifetime, I can safely say the community is one of the nicest I’ve ever been involved in. There are always rivalries, but only light hearted as they should be.
FT: Competition is a big part of the yoyo world. That’s a big difference compared to the juggling and circus scene. What are the benefits and/or disadvantages of competition, in your opinion?
SL: I think it’s great to have both, contests are just one aspect of the yo-yo event Europe has to offer as there are regular meetings and events without the stress of competition.
FT: The win entitles you to a seeded place at the world championships in Tokyo, I think. Do you think you’ll compete?
SL: I’ll get a seed to the 3A semi-finals if I attend, if I can make it I will definitely compete.
FT: What do you think your chances of getting a medal are? Who’s the favourite (if it’s not you) to win 3A at the world championships?
SL: Below Minimal, Hajime Miura is the one to watch at the moment as he knocked the three time world champion, Hank Freeman, off the top spot in Prague last year.
FT: What’s next for you and do you think you’ll be back to defend your title next year?
SL: I’m going to have a break I think! But even if I don’t compete, I’ll definitely be back next year as it truly is an amazing event (excellent work Piotrek) for both players and spectators.
FT: Thanks Langley. Congratulations again and we hope you can make it to Tokyo.