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January-March 2001

Competitive Jump Rope

Jump rope is popular the world over as a recreation and, more recently, a sport. Recently, many Japanese elementary school kids have been enjoying it as a competitive sport. Part of the reason for the rise in popularity is that a jump-rope national championship for junior athletes was held in Japan last year.

Bandai, the same toy maker that sparked a yo-yo craze among kids with the release of its Hyper Yo-Yo a few years ago, has released a new jump rope known as J Rope. J Rope uses plastic or metal ball bearings to connect the rope and the handles, making it easy to swing. With J Rope, difficult moves like the triple under (in which the rope passes under the jumper's feet three times in one jump) become easier to perform. In 2000, Bandai began sponsoring the Jump Rope All Japan Junior Championship. Regional qualifying tournaments were held at 11 locations throughout Japan between June and August, leading to a national championship held in Tokyo on October 8.

There are a number of different events in the competitions. In the speed event, jumpers try to perform the greatest number of jumps in 30 seconds. In the power event, jumpers compete over how many double unders (in which the rope passes under the jumper's feet twice in one jump) they can do in a row. In the double dutch event (in which one jumper jumps two ropes twirled by two other people at the same time) the teams try to record as many jumps as possible within two minutes. And in the long rope event, teams of 30 jumpers see how many times they can jump over the same rope together.

At the national championship tournament in Tokyo last year, the winner of the speed event was a sixth-grade boy who did 138 jumps in 30 seconds. Another sixth-grade boy won the power event by performing 879 double unders in a row. The team that won the double dutch event accomplished 208 jumps in two minutes.

Regional qualifying tournaments are set to begin again in winter 2001, with the championship tournament scheduled for spring 2002. The competition is open to all elementary-school students living in Japan. How many of these jumps do you think you can make?

At stores across Japan that sell jump ropes, kids can pick up an official list of jump-rope skills, take tests, and have their skills approved. Also, "jump schools" are being held at elementary schools, in which the kids can enjoy the sport with jump rope champions, creating a generation of jump-rope fans. Jump rope isn't just about competition and skills, though; lots of kids are taking up jump rope just for the fun of it.

Photos:(Top) The Power Max, top, and Junior Max, bottom, are just some of the J Rope models offered by Bandai; (above) kids compete in the national championship tournament. (©BANDAI 2000)