The Great British Olympics

London 2012 may be a distant memory, but fear not, Olympics fans. The United Kingdom has its own swimming, rowing, wrestling, rugby and other competitive events across the country, from the upper reaches of Scotland and Northumberland to the depths of Cornwall. And when we say its own, we mean it.

The British versions are like none you’ve ever seen before. They’re so unique, in fact, that they’re reason alone to travel off the beaten path, away from more popular destinations such as the Lake District, and see them live. Even better, they’re held annually instead of every four years.

So why not attend one or two of these wildly wonderful events in 2018? Or, if you’re truly adventurous, why not compete?

World Bog Snorkelling Championship

Llanwrtyd Wells may be the smallest town in Britain, but it’s hosted this big event since 1985. Hundreds of participants from around the globe descend on the Waen Rhydd Peat Bog every August. Wearing a snorkel, mask and fins, the competitors swim two lengths of the murky, 55-metre bog without using conventional swimming strokes. The fastest times in each division win, and the world record currently stands at an impressive 1 minute 22.56 seconds. [1][2]

  • Where: Waen Rhydd Peat Bog, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys
  • When: August 26, 2018

British Lawn Mower Racing Championship

Welcome to 12 hours of Le Mow, the flagship event of the British lawn mower racing season. At the start of the half-day endurance race, teams line up in traditional Le Mans grid fashion. Drivers run to their riding mowers and the teams of three racers compete all night, nearing speeds of 80 kph on the curvy dirt and grass course. After 44 years the event is still mowing strong, even though (or perhaps because) the blades are removed for safety reasons. [3][4]

  • Where: Five Oaks, West Sussex
  • When: August 2018

World Black Pudding Throwing Championship

What’s the next best thing to eating this northern specialty, made of pig’s blood, onion and oats? Throwing it at a different pudding, of course. With an underhand motion, contestants lob three lumps of black pudding at Yorkshire puddings piled atop a 7.6-metre platform. The person who knocks off the most wins. While the championship has been held since the 1980s, its roots date back to the Wars of the Roses. Legend has it that when the Houses of Lancaster and York ran out of ammunition during a nearby battle, the Lancashire side threw black pudding and Yorkshire returned fire with their light, crispy offering. [5][6]

  • Where: Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester
  • When: September 2018

Hurling the Silver Ball

During the St. Ives Feast, hundreds of brave Cornwall residents engage in this centuries-old version of rugby. The mayor kicks off the game by hurling the cricket ball-sized silver ball into a massive gathering of players. As the rough and tumble game moves through town, they try to win the ball from each other. Some players even plunge into the cold sea in an attempt to escape with the ball. Whoever returns it to the mayor on the steps of St. Ives Guildhall at noon wins and receives a silver coin. [7]

  • Where: St Ives, Cornwall
  • When: February 2018

Caber Toss

Anyone can toss a javelin. A caber, however, is another story. During this highlight of the Highland Games, athletes start by lifting a tree trunk from an upright position and resting it vertically against their shoulder. When they’re ready, they run and toss the caber into the air so it turns end over end. Their goal is to land it in line with their run. Competitors are judged on how closely their caber lands to the 12 o’clock position, not on how far they toss it. [8]

  • Where: Inveraray, Argyll and Bute
  • When: July 2018

World Welly Wanging Championship

Try saying that 10 times fast. It’s a challenge and could be a competition in and of itself. But for now, this championship is all about how far participants can hurl a Wellington boot using the throwing technique of their choice. This offbeat sport was inspired by an incident between two farmers in Upperthong. One accidentally spilled ale into the boot of the other. This angered the farmer, prompting him to remove his soaked welly, chase the offender and throw the welly at him. Fortunately, there are no such hostilities in the annual reenactment. [9]

  • Where: Upperthong, West Yorkshire
  • When: June 2018

World Egg Throwing Championship

How do you like your eggs? Scrambled? Boiled? Sunny side up? How about thrown? Each June, competitors gather to see which team can throw and catch an egg across the greatest distance. The two-person teams start 10 metres apart, and the distance widens with each successful throw and catch. In past years, winners have exceeded 50 metres. That’s an impressive throw, but it’s the catch that’s truly remarkable in this sport that dates back to pagan times. [10]

  • Where: Swaton, Lincolnshire
  • When: June 2018

Shetland Pony Grand National

Shetland ponies are known for their strength, not their speed. No matter, children who are between 8 and 13 years old and shorter than 5 feet don racing silks and saddle up their stocky steeds. All around the country, kids race the ponies around jump-filled tracks. They’ve been doing it for decades and take it very seriously; for many, it’s a step towards becoming a jockey. And it’s an exhilarating experience for all, especially when they race at the Olympia in London or in front of the queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. [11]

  • Where: Olympia, London (it’s a series of races, but this is the biggest)
  • When: December 2018

Tetbury Woolsack Race

In the 17th century, Tetbury’s drovers tried to impress local women by running between pubs with a heavy woolsack – or a live sheep – on their backs. Today, in the event that celebrates this history, competitors aren’t trying to woo anyone. They’re simply trying to win the 220-metre race held each May. With a sack of wool on their backs and the sub-46-second record in their sights, they run down Gumstool Hill and back to the top. Men and women can race individually or enter as a four-person relay team. [12]

  • Where: Tetbury, Gloucestershire
  • When: May 2018

World Toe-Wrestling Championship

If this sounds like playing footsies, it isn’t. Toe wrestling often results in broken toes and shattered dreams. Opponents sit opposite each other with their well-trimmed toes locked together. They suspend their feet in the air and keep their hands on the ground. When the referee gives the okay, the wrestlers try to force their opponent’s foot to touch a small board just centimetres away. It’s the best of three rounds, and each is round is called a toe-down, of course. [13][14]

  • Where: Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire
  • When: September 2018

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

In 1997, two Dorset farmers bet on who had the longest nettles. A classic farmer bet, if ever there was one. The loser had to eat an entire stem. When the measurements were made and verified by witnesses, the farmer who initiated the bet lost. And the rest, as they say, is history. Today, dozens of competitors eat as many 2-foot-long stalks as possible in one hour. Whoever eats the most, wins. And while competitive eating won’t leave your body black and blue the way some sports will, stinging nettle juice will leave your mouth black. [15]

  • Where: Marshwood, Dorset
  • When: June 2018

Egg Jarping Competition

There’s no egg-to-egg competition quite like the World Jarping Championships. While one combatant holds their hard-boiled egg with the pointed end up, a second combatant brings their hard-boiled egg down so the pointed ends hit. If either egg cracks after this first jarp, the player with the cracked egg is eliminated. If neither cracks, the combatants switch places and jarp again. They continue to swap roles until one egg cracks or dents. The victor is the holder of the unscathed egg. [16]

  • Where: Peterlee, County Durham
  • When: April 2018

Now that we’ve introduced you to The Greatest British Olympics, the only proper way to close them out would be with closing ceremonies. Can you just imagine what those would look like?

Sources

1. Stansall, B. (2008). The World Bog Snorkelling Championship. content.time.com

2. Rad Season (2017). World Bog Snorkelling Championship. radseason.com

3. Ibekwe, D. (2017). Britain just held a lawn mower racing championship – here’s what it was like. businessinsider.com

4. British Lawn Mower Racing Association (2017). 2017 Spectator Details: The BLMRA 12 hour lawn mower race is on! 12hour.co.uk

5. Pozniak, H. (2016). How far can you throw a black pudding? telegraph.co.uk

6. Reuters (2016). Food fight: British sausage thrower wins Black Pudding championship. reuters.com

7. Visit Cornwall (2017). St Ives Festival & Hurling the Silver Ball. visitcornwall.com

8. Scotland.org (2017). Highland Games Traditions. scotland.org

9. Wonderful Wellies (2017). World Welly Wanging Championship 2017 – Welly Boot Throwing Guide. wonderfulwellies.co.uk

10. Jasurek, C. (2017). Britain Hosts World Egg Throwing Championship. theepochtimes.com

11. Hopkins, C. (2017). Shetland Pony Grand National. nytimes.com

12. Gibson, T. (2015). Are you tough enough for the Tetbury Woolsack Race? telegraph.co.uk

13. Mzimba, L. (1994). Toe much to handle. independent.co.uk

14. Raymond, A. (2017). Meet Alan ‘Nasty’ Nash, the king of the toe wrestling with 14 world championships. maxim.com

15. Mirror. (2016). World Nettle Eating Championships held in Britain – and the winner’s name couldn’t be more apt. mirror.co.uk

16. Hutchinson, P. (2012). Egg jarping: when hard-boiled eggs come to blows. theguardian.com

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Posted by Hannah on 7th November 2017