NEW YORK — A 17-year-old boy retained his title as America’s fastest texter Wednesday in a duel of the thumbs staged before yelling fans in New York’s Times Square.
Austin Weirschke took home $50,000 in prize money for the second time in two years when he bested 10 other texting demons in feats of thumb speed, memory and fluency in texting shorthand.
One round was performed with contestants blindfolded and having 45 seconds to type the verse: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.”
The event, sponsored by LG Electronics and using the company’s cell phones, took place on a traffic island in Times Square.
About 200 onlookers, including cheering relatives and mostly teenage texting aficionados, gathered around the stage.
Weirschke said he became a prolific texter thanks to practice with his mother, whom he dubbed “my texting coach.”
But when asked to describe his victory, he must have wished he could text his reply. Facing a microphone, the humble winner could only manage: “I don’t really know what to say.”
Weirschke faced some mean competition — 10 whiz kids from around the country, with the oldest just 24 years old and the majority in their teens.
Several contestants said they typically send hundreds of texts a day. But far from wasting their time gossiping over the miniature keyboard, these youngsters were in the cellphone equivalent of a harsh training camp.
“It’s like the Olympics of texting,” the upbeat presenter of the event said.
One young female contestant theatrically fanned herself in the New York summer heat, worrying after one round that she’d slipped up and lost the chance for that $50,000 check.
“I accidentally added a letter,” she said. “It could change your life.”
Another said: “I feel like I’m having a heart attack.”
The last two survivors of the elimination rounds, Weirschke and Kent Augustine, 16, shook hands solemnly before their final sudden-death bout.
Winning the texting championship has made Weirschke something of a star in his world.
“It’s been crazy. I’ve got to have done a lot of stuff a normal 17-year-old might never get to do in his life,” he said, mentioning being flown to Los Angeles and doing media interviews.