Fifteen-year-old Gavin Olson has solved a Rubik’s Cube in 9.68 seconds.
That’s about the same amount of time it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 metres.
Olson, a Bev Facey high school Grade 10 student, achieved the sub-10 personal best competition time last January. The Fort Saskatchewan speed cuber now has his sights set on 2019’s World Cube Association (WCA) World Championship in Melbourne, Australia.
Olson has faced the clock at eight speed cubing competitions so far, with his first out-of-country test happening in July at U.S. nationals.
“Probably one of my favourite competitions,” Olson said. “Just because it was awesome to meet all of these cubers from all around the world, get some tips from them, and meet some of the world-class cubers.”
The contest didn’t go as well as Olson had hoped.
“I was used to doing a lot better at these local competitions where there are about 100 people. But at U.S. Nationals there were 800. So it was a lot harder to place well."
In August Olson placed third overall at Canada’s Best in the West, a smaller competition where he also earned a podium spot in two events.
“The first time I had ever done that,” he said.
During the summer Olson was putting in three to four hours of training every day. With school underway he’s cut back a bit on weeknights. Most of his practice involves trying to unscramble the cube as fast as he can, but he also eases up on the pace sometimes, turning the cube slowly so he can get better at predicting how the pieces move. He also takes the time to work on learning new algorithms to get more efficient, pause-free solves.
“The way we describe how to turn a cube is we give each face a letter,” Olson explained. “So for example the right side is called R. The left side is called L. The front side is called F. And so on. So basically an algorithm will consist of a bunch of these letters put together to tell you how to turn the cube."
Olson keeps track of his practice times in a notebook. His unofficial best is 6.22 seconds. The world record time in 3x3x3 competition is 4.22 seconds, a mark held by Australia’s Feliks Zemdegs.
Olson said his parents want to see a little improvement before they make any Melbourne plans.
"Two seconds doesn't seem like a lot,” Olson said. “To get down there is pretty hard. But if I keep practicing my cubing, I can envision myself maybe getting there in the future."
A lot of people look at cubing like it’s something that’s super hard to do, Olson added, something he says isn’t true. He was only nine years old when he started cubing back in 2012. His dad suggested the activity would be a good brain exercise. Having the chance to constantly challenge himself keeps Olson hooked.
“It's not like a sport where you compete against other people,” he said. “A lot of the time you're just competing against yourself."