The Mongolian Masters of the Memory Game

I have been fascinated with Mongolians for a long time. In many ways, they are living history, the modern reincarnations of ancestors who reigned over the largest empire in the world and gave way to perhaps the most infamous conqueror, Gengis Khan. 

Since the days of the great Mongol Empire, the country and its people have gone through a  lot of changes, from Chinese rule to a Soviet takeover and now fledgling democracy with a mining boom that's causing a whole host of other complications. 

But one off-kilter, fun international sector that the Mongolians are exceeding in is memory sports. 

Yes, that's right. Competitions that test your recall, focus and memorization skills where the prize money and the binary digits, are abundant. They might seem like a new phenomenon, especially in the age of the rapid progression of Alzheimer's disease, dementia and the impact of the internet and social media on our attention spans and memory. But in fact, memory competitions and the 'mind' athletes who battle each other have been around for at least two decades. 

The German and Swede memory athletes are some of the world's best. Then there are the Chinese, the Filipinos, British and a spattering of other European countries that represent quite well at these competitions. Though there are promising American memory athletes, overall, they aren't really represented at these tournaments across the world. 

None of the countries who participate in these eclectic, slightly odd yet fascinating tournaments come to them as a team. 

That is unless you're Mongolian. 

The Mongolians are an organized, well-oiled memory machine, complete with team t-shirts emblazoned with the logos of various sponsors, a memory coach and homemade visors that block out everyone from their periphery as they're competing against other players.  

I drove to San Diego to document their triumphs and tribulations at the Extreme Memory Tournament, as they become up and coming contenders in the world of memory championships. Read more at The Guardian: 

Extreme Memory Tournament: meet the Mongolian Masters of the Mnemonic