Flying high with paper wings

He flipped, somersaulted and won - not a gymnastics competition but a paper plane contest.

Mr Sean Teo, 22, was one of the three winners of the Red Bull Paper Wings National Finals, held at Singapore Management University on Wednesday.

Thirty contestants took paper plane flying to new heights and transformed standard A4-sized paper into impressive flying machines.

But Mr Teo went above and beyond, performing a minute-long routine that incorporated cartwheels and back flips into his throw.

The first-year National University of Singapore undergraduate emerged victorious in the aerobatics category, where contestants were judged on creativity, flight performance and plane construction.

A surprised Mr Teo told The New Paper: "I feel quite fortunate to win as I had not heard of this contest before January."

Mr Teo, who is a member of his hall's cheerleading team, credited his victory to his cheerleading background.

"I knew my gymnastics would help me to stand out so I added a few stunts."

But it was more than just his smooth moves that propelled him to the top.


Mr Teo also showcased a variety of folding techniques, shaping his planes after hearts, seagulls, boomerangs and spirals, with each plane behaving differently when airborne.

He said: "My theme was to make planes that look 'unflyable' fly so there would be a surprise element."

One of the judges, helicopter pilot Cai Weijun, 28, was impressed with how Mr Teo's planes flew.

Mr Cai told TNP: "His flight patterns were definitely crazier than those I perform in real life.

"My favourite was his boomerang plane, which was creative yet aerodynamic."

Mr Teo, along with the winners of the longest airtime and longest distance categories, will represent Singapore in the World Finals in Austria next month.

Project manager Ronnie Soh, 54, won the longest distance category with a 13.05m throw.

Contestants had two tries to land their plane within a four-metre wide flight path and Mr Soh was one of only two who managed to land both throws within the perimeter.

He said: "I observed the contestants before me and noticed a slight draft. So I played it safe and just wanted my plane to stay within the area."

He described his victory as a complete surprise as he had started his research only two days before the contest by looking at YouTube tutorials.

"I didn't expect to win at all. I was only there because my daughter is a Red Bull Ambassador and she coaxed me to come down."

He played down his chances of winning the World Finals in Austria and told TNP: "Realistically, I know I'm not going to win.

"I'll just treat it as a holiday and have some fun."

The third winner was Miss Tok Sin Joo, 22, a final-year private university student, who clocked the longest airtime.

She screamed in disbelief when her airtime of 4.4 seconds stood unbeaten after the final throw.

She was all smiles when she told TNP: "I was surprised to win my qualifier, let alone the final.

"I've never been to Europe and I've always wanted to go there since I was a little girl.

"I'm just happy beyond words."

This was the second edition of Red Bull Paper Wings, which was first held here in 2009.

A spokesman for Red Bull Singapore said: "Red Bull gives wings to people and ideas, and as our product promises: Red Bull Vitalises Body & Mind.

"For us, Red Bull Paper Wings exemplifies this concept perfectly, as the challenges combine both physical ability as well as mental prowess in the creative construction of paper planes."

This article was first published on Apr 4, 2015.
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