Keith Olsen wields his cards in world contest

Mike Paulus, photos by Andrea Paulseth

How many of you can claim to be ranked fourth in the United States at ... well, anything? Well, if you happen to be 11-year-old Pokémon player Keith Olsen, you just raised your hand. The Altoona 5th grader traveled to Boston late last August to compete in the 2015 Pokémon World Championships. (It was his second go at the tournament). And out of 200 competitors in the Junior Division, Olsen placed 13th overall (yep, in the world) and 4th best of all of the U.S. junior competitors.

Keith has had a lot of practice. He plays the popular card game every Sunday in a special league at The District Company in downtown Eau Claire, where most of the competition is much older than Keith. His father Craig believes all this Pokémon participation has had a positive impact, affording Keith some unique experiences such as “Meeting friends outside of Eau Claire, competing against kids from other countries, and learning how to stay focused through nearly eight hours of competition in a single day.”

Traveling to tournaments has also made for some nice family vacations, Craig adds. In addition to league play, Keith spends many hours a week working on his deck (his set of competition cards) and on his strategies. He says, “It helps with my memory because I have to remember a lot of stuff. It also helps with my math because there is a lot of math – strategies and statistics. It helps with my perseverance because sometimes I am down by a lot, and I don’t give up, and I actually go on to win the game.”

However, looking back at the huge tournament from last August, this seasoned, honorable player says his favorite memory is “When I watched my friend from Canada win the World Championships.”

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