Many senior citizens in China exercise in parks, soak in the sun, play cards with friends, dance to music in public squares or spend time with their children and grandchildren.
Zhao Wenying has opted for a different life after her retirement as a schoolteacher in Jinyun county, Zhejiang province. She is a Rubik’s Cube player. At present, she holds the world’s fastest record for blindfolded cube-solving for people over age 60.
The blindfolded method is to cover the eyes of a player and give them a disorganized Rubik’s Cube to solve. The shorter the time, the higher the score.
In March, Zhao passed the professional Rubik’s Cube B-level exam to become the oldest Rubik’s Cube player for that level.
Seven cubes must be restored within the specified time during the exam. The pass rate globally is low, according to her coach. Only some 900 people in China have cleared it so far.
“Life after 30 years of teaching in a rural elementary school seemed void,” Zhao, 65, said, adding that she was lonely after her husband died in 2007. “The Rubik’s Cube has given me a new relish.”
Her 8-year-old granddaughter had introduced Zhao to the game. “She played in math class with the cube and brought it home. I was very curious, so I played with her.”
As a green hand, she learned at a relatively slow pace. Yet she was determined to learn well. She sought relevant online courses and devoted more than four years to exploring the Rubik’s Cube by herself. Thereafter, she focused on blindfolded solving.
Inspired by Super Brain, a competitive reality show on Jiangsu TV, she reached out to a professional to learn the method.
“When I met Pan Lihuan, a Rubik’s Cube trainer in Jinyun, and expressed my willingness to learn, he thought it was a way for me to kill time,” she recalled.
Pan later told a TV station that it is difficult for people in their 60s to learn blindfolded cube-solving as it requires players to remember the pieces rotatable in groups, the angles at which they are disorganized randomly and completely, and the positions they should be restored to.
However, Zhao did her utmost to acquire the skills under Pan’s guidance. She exercised her memory by remembering car plate numbers and telephone numbers. She solved puzzles through images and pondered on solutions when purchasing vegetables.