Memory champion sets world record

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THE professional memory man Dominic O'Brien was beaten at his own card game yesterday, losing his world title to an Oxford student.

Jonathan Hancock beat Mr O'Brien's world record for memorising a pack of cards in less than a minute with a time of 58.79 seconds. He went on to win the World Memory Championships at Simpson's in the Strand, London.

Mr O'Brien, of Buntingford, Hertfordshire, who can memorise 35 packs of cards shuffled together, was well in the lead at the end of the first day of the competition, having set two new world records - one by recalling the first 142 digits of a spoken 300-digit number, the other by memorising 494 playing cards from shuffled packs. But Mr Hancock had picked up a number of second places and yesterday Mr O'Brien was pushed down into fourth place.

'These are the records for competition conditions - it is very different from record attempts without those pressures,' a spokesman for the championships said.

The youngest contestant, Natasha Diot, 16, of Sunbury, Surrey, won the poetry contest by recalling 40 lines of verse with irregular scansion and no rhyme or repetition, written for the event by Ted Hughes, the poet laureate.

New among the 11 games played by contestants was the 'flightdisk challenge' which involved remembering details of an 80-day around-the-world journey.