By: Kloe Adams
Max Park, a 21-year-old from Cerritos, California, broke the record for the fastest time to solve a 3×3 rotating puzzle cube at a cubing event in Southern CA on June 11. Shaving off 0.34 seconds from the previous world record set by China’s Yusheng Du, Park set the new record at an astounding 3.13 seconds. Previous to this, Park was second to Du with a time of 3.63 seconds. In addition to the 3×3 world record, Park holds records for the 4×4, 5×5, 6×6, and 7×7 cube.
As a toddler, Park was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. Park’s parents, Schwan and Miki, realized Park would require long-term care because of his motor skill challenges and difficulties with social communication.
At age nine, Park took interest in a Rubik’s cube that he found lying around his house. Schwan commented on this saying “His mother thought it might work as a tool to help socialization between mom and Max and to try to help them develop his finger strengths.” Miki began to teach herself how to solve the cube using YouTube videos so that she could teach Park. Within a couple of days, Park solved the Rubik’s cube for the first time. Soon after, at the age of ten, Park attended his first speed-cube competition in downtown Los Angeles. At the competition, Schwan noted that “Right away, Max lit up. He looked like a kid who found this tribe.” Schwan continued to note that since Park joined the world of speedcubing, it has allowed him space for his social skills to grow.
When Park won his first 3×3 record at the World Championships in 2017, his parents were thrilled, not just because he had won, but because on the podium he was looking to the other winners to see how to hold his certificate up to the crowd. This moment was caught in the 2020 documentary The Speed Cubers which follows Park’s story. Schwan commented in the film that “for us, an autistic kid looking at his peers and mimicking is like the ultimate goal.”
Park’s journey in speedcubing has grown a fandom of kids and adults, while inspiring many to get into cubing. Parents with autistic children have reached out saying how inspiring Park has been to them and their children. Park’s success “gives a sense of hope for the parents too — that your child can find something that they’re passionate about and it will help give them a sense of purpose,” Schwan said, “sort of like a guiding light.” Although it is difficult for Park to grasp the concept of fame, Schwan stated Park is comfortable with it. “He doesn’t see much value in that, being popular and famous,” Schwan said. “He understands fame, but he can’t really feel it.”
Outside of the cubing world, Park has a passion for traveling. One place in particular he wants to visit is South Korea, where he has friends who are also cubers whom he is eager to meet.
(Sources: Guinness World Records, Fox News)