Thousands of people in the audience stood up and applauded. Pun Ho Lam, who made his first appearance on the world-class juggling stage, took his “baby” kendama (sword and ball) to say thank you to the audience.
When he heard the organizer announcing that he was the winner of this year’s “IJA Juggling Championships,” for him everything just seemed like a dream. Stepped onto the stage of your dreams and even got congratulations from juggling icon Niels Duinker. He did not expect that the 7 years of practicing kendama would unexpectedly make a “fantastic journey”.
The IJA Festival, hosted by the 75-year-old International Jugglers’ Association (IJA), is a grand event in the juggling industry. The Festival took place in Cedar Rapids, a city in Iowa, in mid-July this year.
Pun Ho Lam, a 22-year-old Hong Kong juggler, participated in the competition with a kendama as a juggling prop. He was lucky to stand out from many works and entered the final round in person and won the Gold Medal of the individual championship.
For Ho Lam, the process of traveling overseas to participate in the competition this year was very difficult.
From preparation for the competition to entering the finals, the planning of the itinerary under the influence of the pandemic has been a bumpy road. The original one-week journey had turned into a month and a half, and there were many obstacles and surprises.
He said that he felt like “going back and forth between hell and the world.” This trip to America inspired him a lot and he looks forward to continuing to shine on the stage of juggling in the future.
Visa Application ProblemAt the end of May this year, Ho Lam received the final selection notice from IJA. The preliminary competition video he submitted was appreciated by the judges, and he could go to the US to participate in the final.
When he received the notice, he was happy and worried, since he needed a US visa to go to America. If he followed the normal application process, he would not be able to get an interview until mid-August.
In early June, he applied for an urgent visa to the U.S. Consulate, but it was “rejected,” which made him really frustrated. Ho Lam cherished the opportunity to go to America and did not want to give up, so he decided to try his luck and wrote to the customer service department of the U.S. Consulate again, hoping to find out the reason for the rejection and requesting a second chance for his application.
On June 15, it was an unforgettable day for Ho Lam, “Life is always full of hope. I received a notification that my urgent application was successful, and I could have a chance to interview for the visa!”
A few days later, his interview was successful.
Then he rushed to plan the trip to America. Originally, he only planned to go there for a week, but he did not expect that the quarantine hotel for returning to Hong Kong would not be available until the end of August. He unexpectedly got a one-and-a-half month trip to North America.
First Winner With KendamaThe IJA Festival was a 7-day juggling event. It was a competition, at the same time, a performance. There were eight performers on stage every day, and thousands of people watched the performance at the venue.
Many of the contestants were talented, and even many of them have set the Guinness World Record.
“My attitude was to ‘enjoy the stage,’ if I keep thinking about whether I could win or lose, then I put too much pressure on myself.”
Ho Lam took a deep breath behind the scenes. The music played, and the curtain opened. When the performance started, he seemed to be a completely different person.
“The audience was very enthusiastic, and when the music played and before the performance officially started, they already gave me cheers. When I completed a beautiful movement, they would applaud and cheer. Everyone was very engaged, especially after the performance, when the audience stood up and clapped, I was so surprised!”
When Ho Lam left the stage, thinking that he had completed the task of this trip, there was another unexpected surprise.
The judges announced his score, and he surprisingly was the “IJA Juggling Championships winner.”
At that moment, he felt the happiness of a “dream come true. My head was blank, I didn’t think too much, I just went on to accept everyone’s applause. At the moment, I was a little scared because I didn’t think about the ranking. I felt that my dream would come true already if I could go abroad to participate in the competition. I was very satisfied to be able to perform on the international stage, and winning the award was a bonus for me!”
Ho Lam is the first contestant to win an award with a kendama as a prop, which also means a lot to him.
He started playing kendama when he was a Form 4 student (similar to high school in the U.S.), and now he is on the international stage with his kendama skills.
He hopes to introduce the fun of playing kendama to more friends in the juggling world.
In the past 7 years, he has won many championships and runners-up in various kendama competitions.
He has also participated in Japan, but this is the first time he has come to the U.S. He shared, “a normal kendama has a connecting line. In order to turn it into a juggling prop, I especially ”removed the line“, so that some special juggling movements can be designed.”
Talking about the reason for this outstanding performance, he explained that he designed the combination of juggling movements and music carefully, and the audience was also very engaged and got relatively high marks in the entertainment part of the scoring sheet.
Guinness World Records Juggler IconsAlthough Ho Lam did not have his family and friends with him when he won the trophy in America, he did not feel alone at the scene.
What surprised him the most was that Niels Duinker, a juggler who holds 8 Guinness World Records, took the initiative to congratulate him on winning the award.
This overwhelmed him. He said, “I watched Niels’s video when I started learning juggling. I could not be a good juggler without him!”
Ho Lam happily took a photo with Niels and had a brief exchange with him. Niels also gave his autograph on the kendama which he used in the competition. This experience became his precious memory of that day.
During the IJA Festival, Ho Lam also met jugglers from all over the world and made many new friends. He showed the Epoch Times reporter a photo of him wearing a medal and holding Wrinkle the Duck, a celebrity pet duck who once ran the New York Marathon and whose original owner, Justin Wood, is also a juggler.
The short trip to Cedar Rapids was an eye-opener for Ho Lam.
He not only witnessed in person the performances of jugglers from all over the world but it also inspired him to continue on his journey. Overseas circuses are more professional and they have more performance opportunities.
Now he is studying a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong and has acquired skills in the professional field. After graduation, he also wants to try a different career path, turning his interest into a career in juggling, and he hopes to perform on the international stage in the future.