“It's a very cool feeling knowing that no one else in the world had done that before. It was definitely very special because I had been running since eighth grade and cubing since second grade — two very two distinct journeys — and this was the moment where I was able to combine them both and break a world record while at it.”
Nitin Subramanian, now 18, can solve a Rubik’s cube in an average of 9.93 seconds. At the CubingUSA Nationals competition in 2018, he solved 10 Rubik’s cubes blindfolded after spending about 40 minutes memorizing how to unscramble them.
“You put on a blindfold and you solve the cube and you have absolutely no idea if you messed up,” Nitin said. “And then when you lift up the blindfold and see everything's in its place, it’s very fulfilling. All your hard work has paid off — learning all those algorithms, all the nights that you spent practicing.”
Nitin first learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube while visiting his cousins in December of 2009 at age 7. By age 11, he could solve a cube in about 30 seconds. He was hooked.
He began spending hours each week — sometimes several hours a day — practicing cubing and learning various algorithms through YouTube videos. In seventh grade, he went to his first competition and solved a cube in 18 seconds.
“I really enjoy the thrill of solving a problem — a problem that so many people have attempted but very few have been able to actually solve,” he said.
Since then, Nitin attended about 7 to 12 competitions each year, began volunteering for the Quality Assurance Committee for the World Cube Association and started organizing local cubing competitions for people of all ages.
“There's 43 quintillion possible combinations on a Rubik's cube. If you drew every combination on a sheet of paper, and you stacked all 43 quintillion pieces of paper, you can make 728 stacks from Earth to Pluto and back,” Nitin said. “Every scramble is something you've never seen before, and statistically no one in the world has seen that exact scramble before, so it's not like we're doing the exact same thing over and over again. It's always something new.”
Nitin's friends & track coach help Nitin break the world record, supporters cheer on the sidelines
But although Nitin enjoys the mathematical problem-solving elements of solving a Rubik’s cube, he said that the best part of cubing is the wholesome community. Even at competitions, participants cheer on each others’ successes and are willing to share advanced algorithms with each other.
“It's the only community that I’ve been a part of where everyone truly wants everyone else to succeed,” Nitin said. “I don't think I felt that level of care for each other in any of the team sports I played.”
In 2018, Nitin saw a post about the record for the Rubik’s Cube Mile (solving one Rubik’s cube before each of the four laps of a mile) on a cubing facebook group. He went out and did a test run, and ended up getting a time of 5:48 minutes, only 11 seconds slower than the world record of 5:37. He knew he could break it with some training.
He emailed Guinness, asking them to recognize the event, but Guinness refused, saying that they had already recognized a similar event: the most Rubik’s cubes solved while running a 5k within a time limit of 25 minutes; at that time, the record was 40 cubes. So, Nitin decided to break that record instead.
He sent in an application and was approved in November of that year. Then, he had 3 months to prepare for his attempt, which was scheduled for January of 2019. Because Guinness didn’t allow the re-scrambling of cubes after solves, Nitin bought 50 cubes to use in addition to the 27 he already owned — 77 total cubes.
Top left to right: Nitin with the planning commissioner, the vice mayor of his city, and his neighbor (who volunteers with Nitin's city); Nitin with his family; Bottom: Nitin with his friends
On the day of the event, Nitin stood on the starting line of his high school’s track, 3 of his friends prepared to run beside him, one holding a laundry basket into which Nitin would drop each unscrambled cube. Beside him was his track and field coach in a cart. A friend sitting in the back of the cart was to hold out each new scrambled cube in a kitchen strainer. Everything was meticulously planned out, yet it was their first attempt at breaking the record and they didn’t know how it would turn out.
“It was really crazy because we had never practiced it,” Nitin said.
“We had one shot — it would either go right or go wrong. It was a very grassroots type of thing, but it ended up working well and we didn't have any problems. We were very lucky.”
Nitin ended up finishing his 77th cube with 3.5 minutes to spare and sprinted the remaining 600 meters.
“It's a very cool feeling knowing that no one else in the world had done that before,” Nitin said. “It was definitely very special because I had been running since eighth grade and cubing since second grade — two very two distinct journeys — and this was the moment where I was able to combine them both, and break a world record while at it.”
But to Nitin, the most memorable part wasn’t the moment he broke the record — it was seeing the 100-150 people who had come to cheer him on, including relatives, friends from school, family friends, strangers, his city’s planning commissioner, and even the vice mayor of his city (who officiated the event).
“When I reflect on my world record, the thing that I remember the most is gratitude,” Nitin said. “I had people I had never met coming up congratulating me. It was really heartwarming.”