During my research I came across a number of weird and wonderful sports including: Conkers, Stone Skimming, Wife Carrying, Underwater Hockey and Extreme Ironing. Bizarrely, the sport I found most intriguing was one I had heard of before, Cheese Rolling.
Once-a-year cheese enthusiasts gather at the top of Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire and a large wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is set rolling down the hill. Up to 20 competitors then hurl themselves over the peak in an attempt to beat the cheese to the finishing line at the bottom.
The hill is incredibly steep and the rough ground means staying on your feet is nigh on impossible. As a result injuries are very common. Indeed whilst browsing the official Cheese Rolling website, I found some photographs of this years event, next to which was the following caption.
“The 2009 races saw 58 casualties, 11 people were taken to hospital in ambulances, at one time there was a short delay to the competition as all three St John Ambulances were off site. Thirty five of the injured were competitors, four were catchers at the bottom of the hill and nineteen were spectators”
Now, this is all well and good because the cheese-rolling is an annual event in which people from all over the world take part and they do so knowing the risks. But a more sensible voice inside me is crying out why?
Winning the race gets you the cheese. Second place gets you ten pounds and coming in third means you win a fiver. Not exactly what I would call an incentive to haphazardly throw myself down a hill in pursuit of a lump of dairy.
Cheese Rolling seems like one of those games when a mate turns to you and says, “How much would I have to pay you to leg it down a steep hill and try to beat the cheese to the bottom, knowing full well you cannot stay on your feet and there is a good chance you will break your neck?” Well, I am certainly not interested in the cheese and I can assure you that I would want more than a tenner.
Even more obscure than chasing cheese?
Cheese rolling comes close to winning the title of the World’s strangest sport but I think one other just pips it to the post, Bog Snorkelling.
I found the Bog Snorkelling website after telling an Australian friend about this blog entry. In relation to bog snorkelling, he said proudly “It’s massive in Australia!”
The website details all you wish to know about bog snorkelling, training regimes and rules. Essentially it started when a small group of people went swimming in a boggy trench in Wales with a snorkel and flippers.
One thing I have learned from researching obscure sports, is that there is a whole world of them out there. When I first found out about these sports, a lot of them seemed like banter gone a bit too far but after researching further I found that all of them have world championships. This shows that some people must really care. To these people I say, fairplay to you.
Doing something that has been done by so few before you is a success whichever way you look at it. It may be a far cry from Premier League football or a Wimbledon final but the existence of obscure sports gives everyone the potential to become world champion. And have a bit of fun in the process. Even if it means risking life and limb in pursuit of cheese.
By Nick Higgins