Max Park: The Wonder of Cubing World
The speedcubing champion isn't just breaking records, but breaking barriers as well by serving as an inspiration to neuro-diverse individuals everywhere.
It may not have the long history of board games such as chess and dominoes or the blanket coverage of mainstream sports such as football and cricket, but speedcubing is on the ascendancy.
Ever since the Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik invented the very first Rubik’s Cube (then known as a “Magic Cube”) in 1974, people have been avidly trying to solve the puzzle in the quickest possible time.
Incidentally, as of 2022 August, the 3x3x3 record stands at a blistering 3.47 seconds.
At its simplest, speedcubing is a past-time that involves rearranging a variety of rotating puzzles into their constituent colours – the most famous being the original 3x3x3 cube but now covering a wide range of different size and shape configurations – as quickly as possible under competitive conditions.
Participants are as driven and officials as strict as any more traditional sporting contest such as the Olympics – because for those that take part, this isn’t playing around with a toy, it’s serious business.
While many talented people participate in these competitions all around the world every year, one name that stands out from the pack is Max Park from California, USA.
The Korean American cubing prodigy has taken this skill to whole new heights and in the process made a name for himself. He is without a doubt one of the best speedcubers in the world right now.
Throughout his teens, Max (who will turn 21 in 2022) has held multiple Guinness World Records titles for his speedcubing feats.
From 4x4x4 through to 7x7x7 and the fastest average time to solve a Rubik’s Cube one-handed, he has smashed records in almost every category, including several times bettering his own mark.
Below are Max’s current speedcubing world records as of 15 August 2022.
||Single||Bay Area Speedcubin' 29 PM 2022||16.79||3 Apr 2022|
|Average||Bay Area Speedcubin' 29 PM 2022||19.88||3 Apr 2022|
|5x5x5||Single||Florida Big & Blind & Time 2022||33.02||13 Mar 2022|
|Average||Bay Area Speedcubin’ 34 – San Ramon 2022||38.42||3 Jul 2022|
|6x6x6||Single||CubingUSA Southeast Championship 2022||59.74||31 Jul 2022|
|Average||CubingUSA Southeast Championship 2022||1:09.23||31 Jul 2022|
|7x7x7||Single||CubingUSA Nationals 2019||1:40.89||1 Aug 2019|
|Average||Houston Winter 2020||1:46.57||25 Jan 2020|
|3x3x3 one-handed||Single||Bay Area Speedcubin’ 20 2019||6.82||12 Oct 2019|
Despite being diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Max and his family have not let that come in the way of his record-breaking talent.
Max has been a role model for many people – both those on the spectrum and those not, including many of his competitors at the championships.
At present, Max holds nine world records, according to the World Cube Association (WCA) – the official body that oversees the sport of speedcubing.
He completed the 7x7x7 record in 1 minute, 40 seconds, seemingly out of nowhere. The world record at the time was a little under two minutes.
Certain well-known cubing figures like Erik Akkersdijk said that this is the most impressive thing he's ever seen. He added, “The record will likely stand for some time.”
Max’s parents, Schawn and Miki, who have supported their son’s passion for speedcubing since an early age, talked to GWR about his journey to success: “Cubing has proved to be a good therapy for Max to socialize and strengthen his skills.
There was a time when Max couldn’t even open water bottles, but he showed interest in solving Rubik’s Cubes.”
That is when Miki learned the techniques first and then taught him. Later, one day, the 10-year-old Max surprised – and delighted – his parents by winning a cubing competition against college graduates from MiT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Caltech (California Institute of Technology).
Since then, Max has come on by leaps and bounds. He is not only setting new world records as if it’s going out of fashion but is also being sponsored to travel all over the world to compete in various championships.
He is even an official ambassador for the Rubik’s brand.
In 2020, Max’s fame spread to a much more mainstream audience when he was prominently featured in the Netflix documentary The Speed Cubers, a deep dive into the sport of speedcubing.
His story was covered alongside fellow record-breaking speedcuber Feliks Zemdegs from Australia.
Despite being competitors on the speedcubing battlefield, Max and Feliks share a very good bond.
They competed against each other for the first time in 2017.
Feliks said, "I heard the name Max from a couple of people who went to the US Nationals 2016, but he was a bit of a mystery to me."
Then in the middle of 2017, he got the 3x3x3 average world record.
Later that year, in Paris, Max won the World Championship. That was his big moment of 'Max Park is here'”.
Feliks was the first ever person that Max, who can find interacting extremely difficult, ever asked for an autograph and took a picture with.
Feliks just had this mythical, legendary status in Max’s eyes.
However, four years later, Max claimed his hero’s records, but Feliks is equally happy for him.
Every time, Max sets a record, he receives a congratulatory message from his idol.
Miki said, “Though the two are rivals, they are also friends and it’s beautiful to watch Max looking up to Feliks in a way.”
Schawn further added, “Feliks is going to be Max’s hero forever.”
In recent years, Max has been regularly engaging in “cubing workouts”, which have helped him to improve his fine motor skills, understand social contexts and communication, maintain eye contact, and to comprehend non-verbal clues.
This activity has made him more confident and self-reliant. His parents told GWR of a heart-warming moment that stuck with them after he’d won a World Championship, which illustrates just how far Max has come on his journey.
“We were very proud of his win, but the big thing for us was he got the certificate and was looking at the people next to him and he was adjusting his certificate to be like everybody else. So that social influence, for us was our win," said Miki Parker.
"Never mind he’s on the podium with the world champion, we’re like ‘Did you see him adjust his certificate?’. That was the reward for us.”
- Schawn Park
In between setting multiple world records, Max has even introduced a new trend in the cubing world known as the “AO100” (average over 100 solves].
This involves solving a cube 100 times, picking out the best and worst times, and then calculating the average.
This has now turned out to be a badge of honour and a marker of how good someone is in the cubing community. Max has set a standard of what one should do in order to best help themselves to succeed in cubing.