THE SIDES OF SIMON
There are a few sides to Simon Shi: the swimmer, the triathlete, and the Rubik’s cube solving YouTube sensation. With over 500 million views on Youtube, Shi is best known for his creative puzzle solving but you’ll also see the former Virgina Tech swimmer on the pro start line of a triathlon and the unexpected combination makes Shi one to figure out—or at least to watch and wonder in amazement.
Swimming since he was eleven years old, Shi swam through college at Virginia Tech as a breaststroker, flyer, and IMer but after over a decade in the sport, Shi graduated with a degree in computer science and was ready for a change. Shi still wanted to compete but he also wanted to be outside more so triathlon seemed like the perfect fit. After learning the ropes during the pandemic, when the races came back, Shi saw success quickly and qualified for his professional license within the same year.
At the same time, Shi was enjoying his hobby: Rubik’s cubes. Although he started his YouTube channel in 2000 at the young age of twelve just to post videos for friends, Shi started creating videos of his puzzle solving and his YouTube channel started to grow. Just as he was finding success in triathlon, Shi went viral with over 72 million people watching him solve a 17x17 Rubik’s cube.
PUZZLES + TRIATHLON
Naturally, Shi started to bring his two hobbies together, solving puzzles on the run, underwater, and also starting a sister YouTube channel more focused on triathlon. Ultimately, the combination of his racing and online success allowed Shi to turn his passions into a full time job. “I enjoy posting videos, the process of that, and triathlon training,” Shi says. Although the primary use of his time is triathlon, Shi knows from over a decade of swimming and his penchant of high volume training that, for him, a solitary focus doesn’t work. “I think there needs to be a hobby other than triathlon. I know some people just do triathlon but I like to get my mind out of training—it’s just another way to keep my mind fresh.”
Rubik’s cubes and triathlon couldn’t be more different but for Shi they cross over in the form of competition. “I solved a Rubik’s cube when I was twelve years old and then I wanted to get bigger sizes and different shapes. Now I have between two and three hundred Rubik’s cubes in my collection,” She says.
“I want to get an official Guinness world record plaque. I’ve done crazy things underwater and several full record attempts that have been successful but unofficially. Someone ran a 5 km solving 77 Rubik’s cubes and I did the same 5 km and I did 84. But I have to submit for an official one to get the plaque,” Shi explains. “Someone ran a marathon in 5 hours while solving 277 Rubik’s cubes so that’s definitely a goal of mine.”
His drive for bigger, different, and to be the best has been the creative force behind his video content and it’s that same mindset that he brings into triathlon. “ Kona—yes. Ironman—yes. And maybe the Olympics too,” he says. “2024 is a very, very small possibility but there’s still a chance.” Despite the learning curve coming into a new sport, Shi says stepping on the pro start line to compete against some of the best is what he loves and that keeps him motivated and ambitious. “I like competition, it’s been in my blood since very young. I like competing and trying to beat other people.”