On the heels of their overall medal count win at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, what might the U.S. do for an encore? How about winning the World Air Guitar Championship? Enter from stage left, or right, American air guitarist Justin Howard.
The 17th World Air Guitar Championship was in Oulu, Finland, Friday, the country that's hosted every air guitar championship since 1996. Beating out competitors from Japan, Britain, Russia, Czech Republic, France, Holland, Estonia and the host country of Finland, Howard, also known as 'Nordic Thunder' won the championship after a sizzling, or it looked to be sizzling, 60 second air guitar medley performance.
The long-haired (air) rocker with a beard and headband from Chicago beat out fellow American, Matt Burns from New York (Burns is also known as 'Aristotle') who finished second; Theun de Jong of the Netherlands was third. Among the judges for the final were a Finnish TV host, Heikki Paasonen, year 2000 air guitar champ, Markus 'Black Raven' Vainionpää and, to mix things up, Finnish real guitarist Juha Torvinen. Their judging gave Howard a narrow win.
"My strength is that I have absolutely no shame," Howard told media before the competition. "I’m not concerned by looking like a fool. I embrace that and I plan to look like that today." As he collected his trophy after his win he said: "I feel amazing, I feel loved, I feel like crying and laughing and hugging."
The website for the competition extolls the virtue of air guitar, suggesting, among other things, that everyone doing it would lead to world peace. After Howard's win, all competitors got up on stage for a group air guitar rendition of Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World'.