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Champion of competitive CAT-5 untangling is crowned

Great sport, or greatest sport?

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They came to the City of Angels to unravel the threads of destiny.

Their gifts have been honed in plastic-shielded spiderwebs that writhe and twist in unspoken places. Sweating and seething. Endlessly toiling in the forgotten cavities of desks and closets. Indentured to their knots like vampiric shades. Yet no mean spirit could accomplish what they do.

They came to the cable untangling championships as mere mortals. They left as gods or, um, maybe nerdy angels.

The stage of history was set last Friday in the Los Angeles gallery, Machine Project. Eight contestants gathered after moving through qualifying rounds held on previous nights to win a cherished spot in the final competition.

Competitive cable untangling is a sport devised by IT veteran Steven Schkolne. The rules are simple, but not unlike a twisted heap of CAT-5s, they are tough and unforgiving.

The sport has two forms of competition: the 2-2-2 and the dreaded 4-4-4.

A 2-2-2 competition consists of two 7-foot cables, two 15-foot cables, and two 25-foot cables wound together in a chaotic mound of terror. The 4-4-4 doubles the punishment and under no circumstances should be attempted by amateurs.

The entire cable must be held above the contestant's head before it is considered a completed separation. When a judge determines the cable is fully untangled, it is placed on the floor. Any cables that aren't decoupled that touch the floor result in a ten second penalty.

Bundling the cables must be applied uniformly before they can be considered acceptable for competition-grade untangling.

First the cables are stretched out and entangled into a figure-8 one meter in length. Then the bundle is placed in a laundry dryer for approximately three minutes. It is essential that the bundle is cooled to room temperature before used in competition.

LA-based web developer Matthew Howell was crowned the first champion of the professional league. His "fierce data cloud" technique was developed from his past employment as a pizza maker.

"Keep spinning and pulling, and it's really just kind of a 3D version of that pizza dough thing above your head, and then you see these little pieces flip out, and you pull them out," Howell told BBC News.

The glory is all Howell's today. Yet there will always be some upstart wireslinger looking to make a name for himself. ®

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