A 34-Year-Long Journey To Winning The IJA Teams Championships

I (David Cain) first competed in the IJA Stage Championships in 1985, at the age of 15, entering the Juniors Championships. While I do have unpublished video of this act, my ego prevents me from sharing it here. Needless to say, it wasn’t good. I tied for sixth place with future NFL Pro Bowl player Kendall Gammon.

David Cain, 1985 IJA Juniors Championships

Two years later, in 1987, my act had improved enough to take home the silver medal in Juniors.

David Cain, 1987 Juniors

David Cain, 1987 Juniors Championships

At that same convention, my twin brother Scott also competed in Juniors. That debacle was the end of Scott’s foray into solo competition, as he garnered an unimpressive 9th place finish out of 11 competitors.

Scott Cain, 1987 Juniors Championships

Scott Cain, 1987 Juniors Championships

At that same convention, we had planned to enter the Teams Championships, but backed out after seeing the caliber of the other teams who were planning to enter. However, that stoked a life-long goal for both of us of winning the IJA Teams Championships. We first entered the teams competition at St. Louis in 1991, performing as Raising Cain. This allowed us the opportunity to perform in front of many of our juggling idols, such as Trixie LaRue, Anthony Gatto, and Sergei Ignatov. The championships that year used the Kappel System, where judges can award multiple medals of the same level or no medals at a given level. Medals were to be earned by meeting certain criteria. As a result, no gold medal was awarded in Teams. Fellow identical twins Doubble Troubble won the competition with the silver medal and Clockwork garnered the bronze. While the official results for the remaining six teams were never published, we were told that we had tied for fourth.

Raising Cain, 1991 Teams Championships

Following our solo gold medal wins in 1993, Jay Gilligan and I teamed up to form the team of  Crash and Burn.

David Cain and Jay Gilligan (Crash and Burn), 1993

In 1994, Jay and I entered the Teams Championships, competing against former gold medalists Darn, Good, and Funny, and two time bronze medalists Clockwork. Jay and I won the competition while my brother stayed home in Ohio.

I had now reached that goal of winning the Teams Championships, but Scott still held onto the dream. Several years later, we decided to try again. In 1998 we put together a Men in Black-themed act featuring 6 to 9 club passing and some comedy bits. This won us the silver medal, coming in second to the acrobatic Canadian troupe Les Tourisks.

Scott’s dream was still alive, yet unachieved. Therefore, we put together another act a few years later. In 2001, we competed in Madison, Wisconsin with an act that include ball bouncing, ring bounce passing, and club passing. This act earned us the bronze medal, placing third behind gold medalists and fellow identical twins The Lasalle Brothers and eventual gold medalists (in 2003) Team Rootberry.

This was the end of our journey to win Teams as Raising Cain, or so we thought. Scott had now been working for the federal government for 9 years and rarely performed. I was busy touring the USA juggling at churches. We soon each became fathers and moved on from IJA competitions, at least as competitors. Scott eventually became the Co-Director of the Numbers Championships and I became a frequent judge for both the Numbers Championships and the Stage Championships. Our only time competing as a team since 2001 was when we won the title of America’s Most Talented Twins on NBC’s Today Show in 2013.

Fast forward to 2021, twenty years after we last entered the Teams Championships. We are now 51 years old and fat. I suffer from multiple health issues including a torn Achilles tendon, a knee that needs replaced, and life threatening asthma. While I still work as a professional juggler, I’m better known as a juggling historian. Scott is just five years away from retirement and rarely juggles anymore. The world is still in the midst of a pandemic and the IJA Festival is online for the second year in a row. Unlike the previous year, when there were only Individuals and Juniors Championships, the 2021 Stage Championships was including the Teams division. In early June, Scott mentioned that he was doubtful that any teams would enter the competition this year. I said, “Hey, this might be your chance to finally win!” We talked about what we would do and looked at our calendars, but decided against it, as we just didn’t have time to properly prepare an act. A week before the June 30th deadline to enter, I mentioned to my 17 year-old daughter Isabel the fact that we doubted if any teams would enter the competition this year. She immediately decided that she and her cousin Elizabeth (Scott’s 17 year-old daughter) should compete. Our daughters used to perform together as Liz and Iz when they were younger. When Scott learned of this, his immediate response was, “There’s no way I’m going to allow you two to win Teams before I do!” So, Scott found a two hour window open at his church’s gym where the four of us (me, Scott, Isabel, and Elizabeth) could throw together, practice, and film a funny, but not technically demanding (or well-executed) act. We filmed this and entered it in the competition, with the stipulation that we only remain entered if no other acts were submitted for competition. Following the deadline, we learned that we were indeed the only act to enter the Teams Championships. While it wasn’t earned by hard work and months of practice, it was a great reminder that you can’t succeed in life if you don’t try and take some risks (of embarrassment, in this case). Scott finally has his Teams Championships win and our daughters have a nice line on their resumes. And hopefully we made some people laugh with an act that obviously didn’t take itself too seriously.

After the Championships, we learned that some folks in the IJA were mad at us regarding our act. I would venture to guess that they believed that we were mocking the Championships or something of the sort. Obviously our long, long association with the IJA Stage Championships should be indication enough that we think highly of them. We have always enjoyed our participation and certainly intended no mocking. What we don’t take nearly as serious is ourselves. And if it helps, we were told by one of the competition directors that they appreciated us entering and were entertained by the act, as many other audience members have told us. That was our main goal – to make some people laugh during a time when the world needs more laughter.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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