Speed, concentration and the ability to manipulate figures on a Nintendo screen with split-second timing have netted 10-year-old Jeff Hansen, a Murray fifth-grade student, a world-championship award in his age category.
Jeff, a student in Murray District's McMillan Elementary School, who has been doing computer programming since he was 7, walked away with top honors in the 11-and-under age category Sunday at Universal Studios in Hollywood.Thousands of youths from throughout the country were gathered in the Star Trek Theater for the competition.
"I didn't think I would be a winner. It feels great. It's the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life," declared Jeff, who arrived home from California Tuesday night with his parents, Alma and Karen Hansen.
The brown-haired, blue-eyed boy, who five weeks ago won third place (age 11 and under) in the Nintendo games in Salt Lake City and then went on to win the Tampa, Fla., championship in the same age category a week ago Sunday, received a number of prizes for the national award.
For scoring 2,009,950 points in 6 minutes and 21 seconds, Jeff won a 1991 Geo LSI convertible, a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a large-screen television set valued at $4,000, a Super Mario trophy and a pair of Reebok "pump" shoes.
Jeff not only scored highest of any youth in his age group, but he also surpassed the winner of the competition among youths age 18 and over, his father said.
Jeff will appear on "Video Power" at 7 a.m. Friday, Dec. 14. The program is broadcast over KXIV (Channel 14).
Launched last March, Nintendo Powerfest 1990 included 30 weeks of heated competition in numerous cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Seattle, Miami and Tampa.
More than 500,000 people participated in the competition in three age categories. Ninety regional finalists (30 in each age group) were flown to California to test their skills on a specially designed competition triathlon cartridge consisting of Super Mario Brothers, Rad Racer and Tetris.
Two other Utahns, Heeth Kell, 10, Tooele, and David Jachmann, 18, Salt Lake County, were finalists in their age groups in the competition. They each won a $200 portable stereo system.
Nintendo takes intense concentration and the ability to move from game to game in just seconds, according to Jeff and the other Utah competitors.
Rad Racer is a high-speed car race simulated at 160 mph. As soon as entrants scored 6,200 points in this phase of the competition, they had to immediately move to Tetris, a Russian-invented game requiring skill and imagination, much like putting a difficult puzzle together.
Many of the youth contenders have been playing in the games since early last March and have moved from competition to competition across the county in an effort to better their scores.
"We first tried it in Salt Lake City. Jeff had really not had enough time to practice the game Tetris. We didn't own the game. He just borrowed a game to practice up and won third place at the Salt Palace. He won Game Boy, a miniature, hand-held Nintendo system, and the game, Tetris, as a prize," said Jeff's father, a mortgage broker.
"He played it so much in the next week that we started thinking about going to another championship. Jeff got so good that we decided to book a flight to Tampa to see if he could win the city championship. Before the finals on Sunday we spent Friday and Saturday in a hotel room where he practiced and practiced," Alma Hansen said.
In Tampa, Jeff won a trophy, $250 in cash, a pair of Reebok shoes and another Game Boy.
The boy and his father returned last Tuesday to Utah, where Jeff attended school Wednesday and Thursday. Jeff and his parents flew to California on Friday.
Principal Beck Sheffield says Jeff is a "very excellent student. We have a computer lab at our school. He knows how to do word processing and all types of things on the computer. What we also appreciate is that Jeff hasn't got caught up in all the publicity. He's a fine young man."
The boy recently received an Arrow of Light award in the Cub Scouting program. He is a Blazer Scout in the Homestead LDS Ward, Murray South Stake. He plays the piano, loves football and basketball and works on his own computer. As a fourth-grader he represented McMillan School, taking second-place honors in the Murray District spelling bee last year.
Some might wonder what a 10-year-old boy would do with a convertible or $10,000.
"I'll let my dad borrow the car for six years - then I will keep it. I'll pay the taxes on the $10,000 bond for my college," said Jeff, who has his sights set on attending BYU and fulfilling a mission for the LDS Church.