RE: Awesome freestyle (Was RE: starting out)
> hey this video is great. and the tricks which the girl do on her
> unicycle are much greater ! I’ve never seen so fluently
> unicycling with
> so many combinated freestyle tricks…really difficult.
It occurs to me that this newsgroup/community is mostly made up of recent
comers to the sport, and people who are more into road, off-road, and Trials
riding. Many of you, it seems have never witnessed Freestyle before.
Hayashi’s two videos are not just any Freestyle, but probably Japan’s
current national champions, so it’s top of the line stuff.
We’ve been doing what we now call Freestyle since the beginning of organized
unicycling in the USA. We always had track racing, and various forms of
“trick riding”. It would be fun to compile a history of the development of
the events, but here’s a rough one off the top of my head:
1971 - First “big” unicycle meet of the modern era, at the bandshell in
Central Park. Stelber was the sponsor, with Bill Jenack acting as their
consultant and contact person to collect riders from all over. I think there
were about 70 in attendance, at the most.
1972 - Pontiac Unicyclists (Michigan) host their first(?) annual “Roundup”,
a small unicycle meet
1973 - Pontiac hosts the first National Unicycle Meet. Though the USA now
counts 1971 as the first, and skips 1972. Later that year, the Unicycling
Society of America is formed. At this meet they have track racing,
individual trick riding, and performances by the clubs, with a half hour
The rest of the 70’s were about the same, with the numbers growing, and the
addition of more age groups. All of this is before my time.
1978(?) - First USA convention in Minnesota. I think they held the first big
wheel race this year (possibly '76 or '77). These big wheels were either
wooden wagon wheels, or hand made large wheels by Tom Miller and others.
1979 - Riders come to the USA meet from Japan (about a dozen) and Suriname
1980 - Biggest meet yet, with about 150 competitors in Kokomo, Indiana.
Riders participated in a gigantic parade through the town (more shriners
than I’d ever imagined). Figure-8 obstacle race devised by host Tom Miller.
The last race on big wheels for several years. Artistic competition
consisted of Individual Trick, Standard, Couples, Clubs, and Individual
Chain Drive. All of this may be a little inaccurate, but Individual Trick
was most similar to what we now call Individual Freestyle, with music,
costume, and judging on the show as well as the tricks. Standard was just
one standard unicycle and no music or costume, but still subjectively judged
(not like Standard Skill). Couples was what we now call Pairs Freestyle, and
Clubs was what we now call Club Show, with a minimum of 5 riders, and all
club members (I think) required to participate. Individual Chain Drive was
like a freestyle category for giraffes. There were very few entries, and I
talked the 1982 hosts out of using it, so 1981 was the last year of that
one. In late 1980 Jack Halpern circulated a proposal to establish an
International Unicycling Federation.
1981 - The USA sat down and came up with a detailed rulebook, the
predecessor of what we have today
(http://www.unicycling.org/usa/competition/). Nationals was hosted by the
Redford Township Unicycle Club for the first time, and it was the first time
we had an indoor track and were impervious to rain.
1982 - Jack Halpern and a group of contact persons in various countries
declare the existence of the International Unicycling Federation (IUF) with
the eventual goal of holding world championship events and getting
unicycling into the Olympics.
1983 - First USA meet to be held by a group of individuals instead of a
club, in Syracuse, NY where no club existed. Special events were a public
press conference/show, juggling USA obstacle course, ramp jump competition,
and wheel walking and hopping competitions (15 min. time limits). This
convention had a large international attendance, partly due to an IJA
festival starting the day after it ended, only a few hours’ away by car.
Something like 8 countries were represented.
The 1983 NUM helped spur the effort to host the first international
unicycling convention. Plans were made to return to Syracuse in 1984 for
what would be the first of the UNICON events. The IUF was incorporated in
the state of New York (same as the USA) in early 1984.
1984 - At the first IUF convention (attendance about 130?), there was an
early version of Standard Skill that was much less defined. After this
convention Sem Abrahams and others developed the rules for the Standard
Skill event as we use it today. We also had the first international unicycle
1987 - UNICON III in Tokyo had a Compulsory event that everybody had to
enter along with either Individual Freestyle or Standard Skill. The
Compulsory event was similar to “school figures” in figure skating, where
riders showed their proficiency at a list of basic skills. This score was
combined with the score from the other event to determine the champions.
Riders could not enter both Freestyle and Standard Skill. At this time, the
Standard Skill event was still not very well developed. Today’s rules were
basically in place, but we had almost no skilled judges. We relied on German
riders familiar with the sport of Artistic Bicycling, on which Standard
Skill is based. UNICON III was the last UNICON to be held in a weekend (all
competition events actually fit into two days!).
1988 - At the International Cycling Festival in Hull, Quebec, cash prizes
were offered for a 100m unicycle race in the street, and for their annual
basketball tournament. This was the only time I have been present at a
unicycle race with a cash prize. Also at this event was what I refer to as
the first “urban motocross” race. Around some of Hull’s downtown government
buildings on sidewalks and through a garden and fountain area, the course
was mostly paved but included going down some steps and lots of sharp turns.
Also in 1988, UNICON IV (Puerto Rico) set the standard for the longer
UNICONs, with many additional events, which have become traditional. I
believe this was the first time the basketball tournament was done in
round-robin fashion (instead of simple eliminations). And the first gliding,
coasting, marathon (8k), and off-road (UMX) races were held. This first-ever
“MUni” race I’ve ever been in was about one mile, on a dirt/sandy road that
had puddles in it, and a major, unrideable sand trap just before the finish.
1989 - At the USA Nationals in Mobile, Alabama, the USA’s first UMX race was
held, over a distance of about 1 or 1.5 miles, over grass, dirt, sand,
curbs, and a ditch. This was also the year a process was tested to allow
non-US competitors to win separate awards. Basically this applied to the
Puerto Rican team, which was very strong at that time. I found the results
of this double-standard to be confusing and unsatisfying. Nowadays our
insurance company determines who can participate.
1991 - At the 1991 USA Nationals in Chariton, Iowa, a 9.5 mile race was held
on a converted railway “cinder path”; the longest race I’ve ever been in.
1992 - UNICON VI was a big one. Though there wasn’t much new in the way of
events, it was all very well organized. “Side” events included a public show
in downtown Quebec, including an “all-star” basketball performance with
riders from many different countries doing set comedy pieces while playing.
Also memorable was a mass group ride through old town Quebec, with about 200
riders and a police escort. We ended this in a park where we set a record
for the biggest “unicycle chain”, with about 194 people riding while holding
hands at the same time.
1993 - Great Wall Marathon event in China. Also China’s first unicycle track
meet. The main events were a 10k race near the Great Wall at Myutan U
(phonetic spelling), and a 100m race on top of the wall!
1994 - Big wheel racing returned, or held for the first time in the IUF, at
UNICON VII in the Twin Cities. A 5k (or longer?) race had an unlimited
category, where people could ride big wheels or whatever they wanted. This
was also the first time UNICON included a hockey tournament.
1995 - USA Nationals in Bowling Green, Ohio. First-ever high jump
competition? First public show on an actual stage.
1996 - UNICON VIII, England, the first landing of UNICON in Europe. Lots of
new people got to find out what we’re all about. A much bigger hockey
tournament, and the first UNICON Orienteering event, held instead of a
1997 - USA Nationals in the Twin Cities had the first (and only so far)
Orienteering competition at a USA convention. This year also featured the
most and best-organized workshops we’ve ever had.
1998 - USA Nationals in Monrovia, California. First time for the USA west of
the eastern edge of North Dakota. Easily the hottest USA convention (during
an LA heat wave). First MUni event on an actual mountain, with an up-down
cross country race, and an uphill competition.
Also in 1998 - UNICON IX in Bottrop, Germany. A unicycle chain was
attempted, and though we were unable to make a front-to-back chain work on
such a narrow, rectangular path, at least 400 riders were all together in
one place. Track gliding was held for the first time.
1999 - USA Nationals in North Bend, Washington. Speed jumping (jump rope)
competition. First-ever organized Trials competition (we did it a MUni
Weekend in '98, but very basic rules, and no points). First-ever long jump
2001 - First USA convention outside the USA. Now it’s the North American
convention. There was a big change in the organization of the Individual and
Pairs Freestyle events, where riders are grouped by a combination of age and
level of skill, instead of just age. Very successful. Also the debut of the
Open-X event, a work in progress. Though the big MUni race in '99 was down a
mountain, it was designated a cross country race. In '01 we had a cross
country and a downhill-specific race, the first of its kind.
Whew! That was long. It might make a nice article for a future On One Wheel
(with a bunch of boring research to make it accurate). Hope you found it
Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
2002 NAUCC and UNICON Referee
Go to NAUCC and UNICON 2002! www.nwcue.org