Yo-yo champion, 15
Why he's interesting: When Beckford performs his yo-yo routine, you can see the process of creation: Each arc, flick and pause requires calculation and practice. That dedication helped the St. Ignatius High School junior place 17th in the World Yo-Yo Contest in Japan in August after winning the International Yo-Yo Championship in California this past summer. Training DayS: Beckford spends up to two hours each day practicing at home and takes his yo-yo with him wherever he goes to practice casually. When he's in public, people like to comment on his skills. "People will say stuff like, Wow, I haven't seen yo-yo like that in years. Can you rock the baby or walk the dog?" Music Matters: Part of building his routines is choosing the music. While he starts his selection from personal favorites — his routine for the World Yo-Yo Contest was to TNGHT's "Acrylics" — it's more important that the song matches the tricks. "It's about rhythm." Trick and Treat: Professional yo-yoers create their own moves, and Beckford is no exception. "I guess the message I try to send in my tricks is to show a clean level of complexity." His favorite kind? "I prefer technical tricks, tricks that have high complexity." Wheel Deal: He has a collection of about 25 yo-yos. He's even created one of his own, called the Diplomat, set to release by a toy company in February. The $60 yo-yo is tailored to suit his particular style. "I designed it to be heavy enough to have stability for my tricks, but not too heavy, so that I could still perform and execute my tricks quickly." What Knot: During the World Yo-Yo Contest, a knotted string forced Beckford to switch yo-yos early in his routine. "That was the first time I messed up to that extent. I was really bummed for the rest of the day. It made me rethink things." Although his cool demeanor helped him quickly get back in the swing of his routine, he says that he learned that anything can happen. Career Goals: His love of math is driving his academic path. "I was leaning toward business or material science. Being an actuary is something that works well for me — people usually work part time, and it'd be something I'd be happy doing since I love math."