Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Douglas student a real pinball wizard

It’s been a whirlwind summer for Robert Gagno as the Burnaby pinball phenom continues his climb up world rankings.

Robert’s steady ascent began back in May when he competed in the International Flipper Pinball Association Championship in Cokato, Minnesota. At the time, he was ranked 60th in the world, but a summer on the pinball circuit, with stops in Seattle, California and, most recently, the “Showdown in Slabtown” in Portland, where Robert swept both the Classics and Open divisions finds Robert sitting in 25th place in the world rankings.

Just this past weekend, Robert competed in PAPA tournament in Pittsburgh, which draws hundreds of players from around the world. Although he just narrowly missed qualifying for the “A” division like he did last year, he placed second in the Classics division, which sees players face off on vintage machines. Thanks to this, his ranking should be bumped up to 21st or 22nd.

“My goal is to be number one in the world,” says Robert.

That drive is helping Robert make a name for himself on the circuit, as he matches up with some of the best in the business. In one dramatic game in Portland, Robert nearly edged out Keith Elwin, the top-ranked player in North America.

“If I had pulled it off I would have got a round of applause for sure,” says Robert.

Pinball has been a big part of Robert’s life ever since he received a machine for his tenth birthday. Today, he practices up to three hours a day and, when he’s not travelling, he hones his skills with the Vancouver Regional Pinball Association. At 21, Robert is one of the youngest players in the pinball community.

“They really like him and respect his pinball skills,” says Kathy. “They can get very competitive during tournaments, but they are also really supportive and encouraging of Robert. There’s a real community and Robert has met so many people through pinball.”

“I’ve heard people say I have amazing control, nice flipper skills and great aim,” said Robert.

Last year, Robert, who is autistic, took math and English courses through Douglas College. His mom, Kathy, says Robert is considering the Basic Occupational Education (BOE) Program for the fall.

Douglas College Basic Occupational Education