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Monday, March 17, 2014

San Franciscans to Compete in U.S. Memory Championship

Posted By on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 8:00 AM

USAMC competitors participating in the face memorization event. - ,A HREF="HTTP://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/USER/SBNATION">YOUTUBE
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  • USAMC competitors participating in the face memorization event.

Championships exist all over the world for basically every sport you could imagine. Water polo, horseback riding, rugby, memory training -- yes, we said memory training, and yes, that is a sport.

Every year, mental athletes train for the USA Memory Championship, which is held annually in New York City. Now in its 17th year, this year's USAMC on March 29 features competitors ages 12 to 60 from across the country. And this year, two of those competitors are from San Francisco.

Journalist Nathan Jaye and registered nurse Sue Jin Yang, both from S.F., will be among over 60 other mental athletes from over 10 different states.

Participants in the championship are given five minutes each to memorize the sequence of cards in a shuffled pack of 52 cards and a sequence of 500 random numbers, and 15 minutes each to memorize an unpublished poem and the full names and faces of 117 people they have never seen before. (And you thought it was impressive when you were able to go grocery shopping without a list and not forget anything.)

"It's almost like training for an Olympic event," said memory expert Chester Santos. "There's no way you can win without training every single days, for hours."

Known as the "International Man of Memory," Santos has been teaching people how to compete in the championship since winning the championship himself in 2008, after five years of competing. Jaye trained with him in preparation for the event.

Although Yang has competed in previous years, this will be Jaye's first memory event. He initially started training for USAMC when he heard about Santos's memory workshops.

"I like trying new things, and the workshop was just one of them," Jaye said. "It sounded fascinating. I had no idea what a memory champion could do."

One of the visual tricks Jaye has been using to train for the event is to associate each item he will have to remember with a picture, and then recall the pictures. One variation of this technique is known as "memory house," when one associates each object with an item in a house, and then takes a mental walk through the house in order to recall what the objects are.

"I had no idea you could use visual images to remember things," said Nathan Jaye. "The brain's picture imagery is really good, we just don't use it that much."

Every year, the U.S. Memory Champion is awarded a trophy and typically goes on to compete in the World Memory Championships.

If you want to check it out but can't make it to New York, the competition will be live streamed.

Now, we better write down the date it's happening, before we forget.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Jessica Nemire

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