Something about a video of stacking cups really fast captured Josh Hainsel's imagination.
"I think he was 8," said Josh's mother, Andrea. "He saw a commercial selling the cups and he just thought it was neat and wanted to try it."
The cups came with a DVD with instructions.
"Once he tried it, he really liked it," Hainsel said. "At the time we actually were living in Tega Cay, S.C. He just taught himself. But there was a tournament in Waxhaw, N.C., (in 2009) and he said, 'can we go?' We said, 'I guess, whatever.' He ended up setting all new South Carolina records."
The media of choice for the sport stacking community is YouTube, maybe because it's almost impossible to describe the skill in words or still photos. You gotta see it to believe it. In a blur of hands and staccato clicking of cups on a tabletop, the cups go from stacks to pyramids and back to stacks in as little as 1.6 seconds. In tournaments, competitors are timed in stacking events called 3-3-3, 3-6-3 and cycle. A stacker's combined time determines the winner. Josh's total for all three was 9.887 seconds. He won the world championship.
The World Sport Stacking Association website describes the three forms of stacking this way:
• The 3-3-3 Stack Cups are "up stacked' and "down stacked" from left to right or right to left (individual preference) in three stacks made up of three cups in each stack (3-3-3).
• The 3-6-3 Stack Cups are "up stacked" and "down stacked" from left to right or right to left (individual preference) in three stacks made up of three cups on the left, six cups in the center, and three cups on the right (3-6-3).
• The Cycle Stack A sequence of stacks combining a 3-6-3 stack, a 6-6 stack, and a 1-10-1 stack, in that order. Stackers conclude the Cycle stack with cups in a 3-6-3 "down stacked" position.
The Hainsels moved to Hendersonville in 2010 when Andrea got a job at Mountain 1st Bank. She is married to Bryan Hainsel; their other son, Zach, is a freshman at West Henderson High School.
Last year, Josh and the family started going to more tournaments.
He finished sixth at the national championships in Colorado Springs and after that won a spot on Team USA.
"They actually added sport stacking to the Junior Olympics last year so we went to Houston for the Junior Olympics and he came in third overall," Hainsel said. "That was really exciting to be in the top 3."
He was working his way up, getting faster by the week.
He finished second at the nationals in March in Baltimore "and then two weeks later was world championship in Orlando, where he came in first" beating 243 stackers from 16 countries. The event was April 6-7 at the Lake Buena Vista Embassy Suites.
Josh competes in the 11-12 age group but beat everyone. He's at the peak age in the sport now; adults stack, Hainsel said, but not nearly as fast as kids.
"He's a very shy kid so it's actually taken a little bit of time to sink in," his mom said.
He performed a stacking exhibition at a Rugby Middle School pep rally. The school announced his world championship on the P.A. one morning and it put his feat up on the school's sign.
"I think he's not one honestly that really likes the spotlight, so he's a little bit nervous when he walks into a tournament as the world champion," Hainsley said. "I think he's really honored because the previous world champions are all very good. There were others from Germany and Great Britain that were expected to possibly win and he managed to beat them all."
Josh asked his mom if she would join him in the child/parent pairs competition. She agreed, and demonstrated that he must get some of his quickness from her. Of 45 teams, they were the only one from the U.S. to reach the finals.
"We were the only team from the USA to make it to finals and ended up in fourth," she said. "I was shaking way too much. I am not used to such pressure."
Josh, who also plays trumpet in the band, has tried other sports but for now he's focused on sport stacking. And why not?
"We're very proud," said his mom. "There are not many people who can say they're the best in the world at anything. He really did an amazing job. He handled the pressure they're under when there are hundreds of people standing there watching. To be able to do it well is amazing."
One of the most rewarding parts of the tournaments, she said, is the camaraderie of sport stackers.
"The group is very tightknit. Within the stacking world it's a really big deal. In this sport, these kids, they cheer for each other. Even if someone beats them, if you can improve your time, that's the most important thing."
Although the 2014 world tournament site has not been announced, Hainsel said organizers have already indicated it will be out of the U.S. The common language of stacking is speed, which competitors respect no matter where it comes from.
"Honestly my favorite part of the whole tournament was after the tournament, the South Korean team came up to Josh and asked if they could get their picture taken with him, and they were just so excited," she said. "They were going back to face who knows what from North Korea and all they wanted to do was get their picture taken with my son."
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