what were YOUR unicon high lights?

All you people that went to Unicon, some of you must have got home by now besides Lars, Paul and I. What were the high ( and low) points of the event for you?

For me, one of the lows was the lack of “free” gym time to hang out and enjoy riding with other people in a non competitive way.

One of the Highs was watching the 30+ pairs freestyle, some great routines and I loved Jespers plaits!


High points: Experiencing the Japanese culture - interacting with the Japanese organizers and competitors on the grounds of the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center; eating miso soup and rice for breakfast; walking the grounds of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace; being treated with respect in every establishment we visited; and, being able to use a truely integrated public mass transportation network (even when most of the systems maps were not readable). Also, the precision with which the artistic and track events were conducted (you try running 84 heats of the 100m in less than three hours!).

Low points: Not being able to assist the organizers more because of my complete lack of Japanese; the Tokyo highways traffic at all hours of the day and night; and, not having more free time to explore Japan outside of Tokyo.


  • Amazing, amazing artistic performances
  • Amazing athletic performances. How about Hiroki Shigeno, riding the 10k on a 24" uni with 125mm cranks in 28:22.52? That’s got to be a world record. Is it? He was very fast in the track races as well. And Seisuke Kobayashi, who won all the MUni races!
  • Riding in (1964) Olympic venues, the artistic gym and the second day of track. Even our huge Unicon crowd made the 65,000 seat Olympic athletics stadium look deserted!
  • The Fujimi Panorama Resort. Beautiful place, and nice to get away from the heat and crowds of Tokyo for a day.
  • An incredibly hard working staff, keeping things moving and almost everything on time, which is amazing under the circumstances
  • Being part of the biggest unicycle convention ever attempted
  • Seeing some familiar faces I haven’t seen since 1987!
  • Hanging out with and meeting new riders from around the world
  • All kinds of interesting food
  • Any place that was air conditioned
  • Awesome Welcome and Sayonara parties


  • Venues and settings geared only toward competition, with no place to just ride around.
  • Such an incredibly large number of competitors that the convention was the longest ever.
  • Bad Freestyle judging. Though our rules may need to be addressed, the problem here was quality of judging. We need a judge certification and training system, to be in place before the next big competition.
  • The hurt on the Japanese Freestyle community when the flawed judging results were announced.
  • Lack of communication – This is probably always going to be an issue when multiple languages are involved, but what we were missing here was a lot of background information, to help people plan what to bring or what to be prepared for.
  • Data problems at the track. Though the problems were solved (in start contrast to China), I’ll repeat what John Hooten said: “When one missing person or password can screw up a whole day of competition, you’re still a long way from the Olympics.” (paraphrased)
  • Awards ceremony of death. The plan was to give out track awards at the track, between/during racing events. But the method used for doing the awards took over an hour for just the 800m race. On the second day of track the data problems delayed the awards, so only one race ended up being awarded at the track. This ended us with what seemed like a day-long awards “ceremony” that used up all the time between the basketball final and the Sayonara Party.
  • Encore performances. This could have been a nice show, even without a stage or seats, but was allowed to be killed by the awards ceremony of death. Not enough time was allowed for doing a proper show.
  • The weather. Though I guess the humidity levels (very high) are normal, apparently the temperatures were unseasonably hot. At least we missed the 39 degree day a few days before the convention started, but I think we got up to 37 (98.6 f!) on one or more days. We sweated a lot!

Sorry if my Lows list looks bigger than the highs. Just that the lows need more explanation. It was an amazing convention, and a herculean task to make it all work. I feel sorry for all of you that had to miss it!

Just got back Sunday afternoon after a wonderful trip.

Convention Highs:
—Sayaka Kan. Oh my god! I have photos of me with her, but I was too bashful to kiss her feet like I wanted to.
—Kazuhiro Shimoyama’s snappy standup coasting pirouettes. Oh my god again.
—Coming in the first day from the airport straight into the Welcome Party - that was AWESOME!
—Jack Halpern lending me a Coker for the whole convention.
—Beau winning the Muni Cross Country race (for under 15s).
—Weather was much nicer than China in '00. If we had been there a week earlier, it would’ve been horrible. That being said, I can see how others have the weather as a Low!
—Staying together and eating a huge and cheap breakfast together everyday. Much better than '02 and almost as good as '00.
—San Jose to Narita direct flight
—Being in Japan again after 7 years!!

Convention Lows:
—No gym to hang out in
—No workshops
—I didn’t agree with the freestyle judging
—Encore performances. This was badly handled all around and left bad feelings left and right
—Awards took WAY too long. I recommend just awarding a few in front of everyone (like freestyle, pairs, 100m, overall racing) and only 1st through 3rd. Maybe just the trophies and not the medals at all. Who wants to see the 6th place winner of something?
—Not enough food at either of the parties and too crowded and loud
—Internet access.

could someone please elaborate on this?

-My first UNICON!!! Hanging out with 1500 other unicyclists
-Being in Japan. Always wanted to visit Tokyo
-Watching some amazing group performances- especially Team Tyodas awesome routine
-Putting faces to people on RSU
-Simon Wells freestyle routine
-Yoggis 12 foot drop
-Lars surviving his fall at the trials
-That Japanese girl that did the 5minute long pirouette
-All the Japanese girls doing stand up one foot glides; Pirouette stand up glides
-Scoring a Universe2 DVD for 1500Yen
-Getting overall third placings in the XC and DH- especially the DH since it’s not my main event
-The welcome and farewell parties
-Riding Yuta Ando’s Uni racer. 65mm cranks on 700c
-Getting to ride the Harper Hub
-An awesome event!

-That noodle roll I ate two days before my MUNi events.
-Running to the toilet 10x/day before my MUNi events
-Not knowing much about the MUni courses, minimal time to pre-ride the course.
-The Tokyo heat- boy it was hot
-Not being able to ride at the NYC
-My carbon fibre seatbase- it was very uncomfortable (no padding)
-Leading the for most of the XC race, being passed by Seisuke Kobayashi and Roger D near the finish.
-Leading the marathon at the start and then wilting in the heat :(. Missing the turn into the finish line and losing another place.
-Joel missing out on getting the Harper unicycle by 5 minutes
-Hard to find internet in Tokyo
-Hard to get money out of cash machines in Tokyo
-Being the only NZ rider there


Can we arrange some sort of “unicycling hotties” photo album?

I’m not utterly surprised but well done Beau!

Sorry, hopefully next time we’ll be there in force!

Pete’s Highlights:
—GizmoDuck getting 2 bronzes
—Seeing other results and realising that maybe I really could’ve done alright.

—Not going to Japan
—No TV coverage, surely we could arrange TV coverage for next Unicon? I’ve seen every other ridiculous sport under the sun on TV, where’s the unicycling?!

There were some camera people there, including ESPN. But don’t know when that will be on.

As for other coverage- NZ MTB magazine are hopefully printing a story next issue.


When and where is the next unicon?


I’m curious now John, what do you mean by flawed judging? I was aware of some bad losers* among the Team Japan freestylers , but I didn’t think the results for the classes I watched ( most of group, most of older and all of expert, pairs and solos) were particualry “wrong”.

The IUF rule book for freestyle may not be perfect but I thought the results were generally in line with those rules. So routineX that is technicialy high scoreing but with low presenation marks may place higher than RoutineY that is technicially good but uses a few skills repeatedly and has better presentation than routine X. I was aware that a number of routines used a small number of very difficult skills repeatly,I think they may have got higher marks if they had used a wider variety of skills.


  • by which I mean, refusing to applaud any one placed higher than themselves and not looking pleased with any thing that wasn’t gold.


Per the current, “Status of future NAUCCs and UNICONs,” thread, it is about 80% probable that UNICON XIII will be held in Langenthal Switzerland, about one hour south of the German border (about one hour from Zurich airport). The potential organizing committee plan to let the International Unicycling Federation, Inc. Board of Directors know by the end of November. No firm dates have been discussed.

Alas, you did not see the performances. The whole story is long enough even if you had, but I think I should work to get the clips I made online first before describing any more, other than answering Sarah’s question below.

See my NAUCC video clips here:

At least one judge had been to only one previous Unicon. Another judge I did not know at all, and I don’t think had any Unicon experience at all. It doesn’t matter how many German championships, NAUCCs or other national events you’ve been to, at those you don’t get the full spectrum of riding you’ll see at a Unicon. Since part of the judging criteria involves originality, it’s relatively impossible to judge certain aspects of presentation without the necessary background. Anyone who sits as an expert judge at a Unicon should have at least been to one or two previous Unicons, and have previous Unicon judging experience. First-time Unicon judges should not judge experts, unless no more qualified judges are available.

The IUF Rulebook contains this passage in the section on judging panels:

Assignments for Expert and Jr. Expert (if used) judges will be made by the Chief Judge using the most qualified of all judges available. A list of qualified Expert (and Jr. Expert) judges should be registered with the Artistic Director and/or Host prior to each event. All judges for the Expert Freestyle groups must have previous UNICON judging experience.

I am not aware of any collection of judging names being done before the start of Unicon XII, which is a failure of our system, and their may have been some choices of expert judges that were made for the wrong or insufficient reasons, which would be a failure of the Chief Judge.

There may have been a severe shortage of experienced judges, and a massive search to find some. However I was never contacted to help out with judging, so if such a search were going on I never knew about it. I judged the Individual Freestyle and Open-X competitions from the teenagers on up because I went up to Connie and let her know I was available.

Anyway, here is my take on the way the expert results came out:

Group Freestyle: No doubt in anyone’s mind that Toyoda dominated the competition, even with 37 entries! I did not think too much about the lower placings.

Pairs Freestyle: I was watching with my photographer hat on, not my judge hat. Two different things. My general feeling was that Shimoyama/Yoshizawa should have been first instead of second, but again I did not watch the performances with the eyes of a judge.

Individual Freestyle: (I was one of the judges) For the men, I picked Ryan first, Kazuhiro second, Simon third. Between the three of them, you had an apple, an orange, and some kind of pomegranite. In other words, very hard to compare! But Kazuhiro was clearly not on his game in his performance, so it was pretty generally agreed that he was not the top competitor. I do not have an issue with the men’s results.

In the women’s is where I take issue. Amy Shields did an awesome performance, possibly the best ever by an American in her event. Again, wish I had video to share. You can see her performance from NAUCC on my web site, but of course the Unicon version was not identical (same act, but different dismounts/details). BUT. Sayaka Kan blew me away. She floated like an angel, spun like an Olympic skater, and brought tears to many eyes in the house. Her performance should have won the gold.

According to snatches of conversation I overheard later on, the judges mostly picked her to win as well. Something like four firsts and two seconds. But what I heard was that one judge picked her as 12th! Sounds like a mistake. As a judge, it’s possible to make such a mistake with 16 competitors. If you write your marks in the wrong slot on the form (which is possible because I’ve done it), it’s possible for the mistake to go unnoticed with so many riders.

The judge who picked Kan as 12th had no previous Unicon experience that I’m aware of. If this was the case, this judge should not have been at the table for the expert performances according to IUF rules.

If the above is true, we the judges failed the competitors. The flaw was with the judging system, not the rules. I expect there is going to be much discussion ahead on how to prevent this from happening in the future.

In the end, the judging results sent what I believe to be a wrong signal to the Japanese Freestyle community. The signal being that “more tricks” is more valid than “beautiful artistry.” Both have their merits, and I still don’t know that we have interpreted our own rules correctly in determining the winners. That’s the area of our Freestyle judging criteria that I think we need to address.

Definitely a lot of tears. Kind of like ice skating, with the “kiss and cry area” outside the gym doors. Except the Japanese riders did more of a “cry and cry,” for good performances as well as bad it seemed. So for me the crying alone was not a good way to judge what those riders (and coaches) were thinking.

Back in 1998 when Toyoda came in second at Unicon IX, that was different. The team was in tears because they apparently assumed they would win. Again it was artistry, flow and beauty vs. techical skill and more variety, but I believe that judging was accurate (disclaimer: I was the Chief Judge). To assume one will win is not good sportsmanship.

Sarah, You have summed up in very few words the basic dichotomy between the Japanese and “other” styles in the Freestyle arena. I could not have explained it so well with even several paragraphs!

This is the problem, or at least the other part of it. I’m wondering if we need to get more specific on how “perfect” we want performances to be. In other words, severity of penalties for dismounts and/or going outside the boundaries. Different people judge these areas in widely different ways, so we might need to define them more specifically. This might help to clear up the difficulties we have in comparing these two types of performances.

I hadn’t noticed that. Definitely many of the top competitors acted as if they were in the Olympics, not at a unicycle convention (the TV cameras helped), not applauding is also not a good sign of sportsmanship. In some cases however, not applauding could have been out of sheer astonishment. I had a few cases of that along the way as well.

Thanks for clarifying what you meant john. Not quite as major an issue as your first comment made it sound!


I’m glad that made sense to you Sarah, but I do think it’s a major issue. The riders I spoke to practiced for six months or more on specifically those acts they performed at Unicon. The judges that judged their final work were picked, as far as I know, after their arrival in Japan. I was not aware of any advance work to set up a team of judges, or to locate the most experienced ones so we could do our best to “honor” the performers with the best possible judging effort.

So we ended up with Olympic-class unicycling, and amateur-class judging. I know, the Olympics are primarily amateurs, but you know what I mean. The judging panels were, based on the results, not worthy of the performers they judged. We have to set up a system where our judges are more ready, our judging panels are worked out in advance, and there is some way of quantifying a judge’s skill level or experience (training and certification).

Assuming John is correct, it is major issue. As I see it, the wrong person won due to having a single unqualified judge. This should never happen.

When I am averaging data that may be suspect, I always ignore the highest and lowest values and average the rest. It’s debatable if this technique is valid with only 7 judges though. I’ve never been a judge at Unicon, but it sounds like there is no discussion between the judges. If there were, I think that such a blatant error (1,1,1,1,2,2,12) would cause the first 6 judges to talk some sense into the 7th who could then change her ranking.


Sorry john, crossed wires… I meant not major as in not every single class totally screwed with dodgy results. I appriciate its a big thing for those competitors who were affected.


This has been done before. In fact it may have been the standard procedure in the past for USA judging (can’t remember # of judges). But since the identity of the high and low scoring judges is irrelevant, it should work with even 5 judges.

Judges don’t get to see the scores of the other judges; there is no time. Instead we get the next set of judging sheets for the next batch of riders. The judging sheets go to a data entry person who processes the scores into the computer, which determines the results.

At that point in the process, the one odd score should be noticed, and steps taken to address it. I don’t know what process was used at that point, but I’m sure we’ll be discussing it later on in rules committee. The odd score could have been discarded, or the judge contacted to see if that was the score the judge intended.

In any case, odd scores like that are theoretically possible even with experienced judges. So perhaps that aspect of the scoring process should be addressed along with judge training/certification.

unicon was cool I liked it!