Yo-Yo Bro Mengwei Zheng

They say it’s always the quiet ones. Ten years ago, Mengwei Zheng and his folks emigrated from China to the US. He attended Dartmouth on a full scholarship and then received his master’s from Northeastern. Now this soft-spoken, buttoned-down tax analyst with a grocery firm in Keene sports an improbable passion for throwing yo-yos. He practices daily and competes in large, freestyle tournaments. His routine leaves viewers awestruck and delighted. Discs fly, string vibrate and Zheng comes alive.

Photo by David Mendelsohn

In his own words:

  • The first time I picked up a yo-yo I was, like, 8 years old, but it was when I was 16 that I took it seriously.
  • I saw a video about the four-time Japanese World Champion Hiroyuki Suzuki. I was amazed by how he can control the yo-yo to do all these amazing tricks and combine them with music.
  • Most people who compete in tournaments don’t have any intention of making money or getting endorsements. It’s just a really fun hobby that brings people together over a simple toy.
  • The largest competition is the World Yo-Yo Contest, which rotates to a different country every year. This year it was in Iceland, and in 2018 it will be held in China.
  • It is my goal to be there in five years.
  • I do get pretty nervous when competing. A single mistake can easily ruin my chances. People practice for so many years just to get placed in a big contest.
  • There are some things that yo-yo tricks and tax analysis have in common. You can’t make a mistake, and you have to pay close attention to details.
  • I’m totally a numbers guy and really enjoy it.
  • I practice every day, like a hour or two. Before a competition, it’s more like four or five hours a day.
  • A professional yo-yo usually costs anywhere between $250 and $500. They’re milled from aircraft-grade aluminum, exotic alloys and even titanium.
  • Shinobu Konmoto, a former world champion, makes a model known as “Nostalgia.” You must wait six months for it and it costs $5,000.
  • Throwing yo-yos is pretty cool. It’s a nice way to find other people, but for attracting girls it’s really not so good.
  • We have a women’s division — we just need to attract more women to join the community. That would be great.

To see Zheng perform some astounding tricks, just go to YouTube and type in his name. To see some tricks up-close, or to test your own skills, drop by YoYo Heaven on Main Street in downtown Concord.  It’s owned and operated by the father-son team of Andy and Dan McBride (Dan pictured here) and stocks hundreds of yo-yos and other “skill toys.”

CREDITS: Outstanding photo assistance provided by John Moody despite one of the lights falling over. Wardrobe provided by the ever-beautiful Ann Carnaby of Tracy Theatre Originals. Location vista suggested by Sue Driscoll and provided by Megan Burke Kidder.

Categories: Q&A