Odd Sports

Sports medicine concept and athletic medical care symbol as a doctor stethoscope tangled around a group of sport equipment icons for soccer football basketball and baseball.

When we think of top sports championship competitions, we automatically think of the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the British Open, or, in many countries, the World Cricket Championship. However, there are many championship competitions around the world that just don’t have quite the same celebrity as those major matches:

Gurning – A contest to see who can make the ugliest face. A gurn is described as a distorted facial expression. Since circa 1300, the Egremont Crab Fair in England has hosted the World Gurning Contest. In the competition, held in September every year, many participants – which includes men’s, women’s, and junior divisions – wear a horse collar. This is referred to as “gurnin’ through a braffin.” Peter Jackman, the UK’s most renowned gurner, has won the contest four times with his “Bela Lugosi” face. For more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD_c7t5kSpk

World Nettle Eating Championship – Held at The Bottle Inn in Marshwood, Dorset, England. The stinging nettle is a plant which has tiny sharp hairs on its stems and leaves which act like hypodermic needles. They inject a histamine into anyone who eats them, hence the stinging sensation. Begun in 1980, the contest involves eating the leaves of the two foot long stalks. The winner is determined by who eats the most leaves in an hour. More info and recipes at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bottle_Inn

Pooh Sticks Championship – Dorchester, Oxfordshire, England. This “sport,” originally described in the Winnie the Pooh books, involves players dropping sticks off a bridge and then racing down the shoreline to see who’s stick floats fastest, passing the finish line first. While the training regimen for this activity is not extremely physical, the “urging your stick to float faster” exercises do have a tendency to draw some head-scratching from non-participants. The 2014 champions were Simon Critchley in the Singles division and the Blantz Family for team play. Sharpen your sticks at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poohsticks

Nude Sports – In ancient Greece, the first Olympics were held in the nude. Women couldn’t participate or even be spectators, unlike now when a wardrobe malfunction at a sporting event can be witnessed by millions instantly. Today, the most popular forms of nude sports are tennis and volley ball. Though the Princeton University Nude Olympics were banned in 1999, many other nude sporting events still exist. Among them are the Nude Olympics held at Maslin Beach in Australia, the Nude Beach Olympics in San Francisco, and the Nude Rugby International competition in Southern New Zealand. And let’s not forget the Running of the Nudes during the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, an alternative to Running with the Bulls. No bull. Here’s more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_of_the_Nudes

Extreme Ironing – Started in Leicester, England in 1997. Proponents of the sport, known by the names Steam and Spray, describe it as “an adrenaline sport which combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” Extreme ironing can take place anywhere and include aspects of other extreme sports, such as rock climbing, skiing, scuba diving, sky diving and running. Chapters have also sprung up in Germany, the US, Fiji, New Zealand, and South Africa. A BBC documentary called Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Glory, was followed by a DVD and book. The first Extreme Ironing World Championship was held in Munich, Germany, in 2002. The winner in the team competition was Hot Pants while Steam took the individual honors that year. For a steamier explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_ironing

The Royal Shrovetide Football Classic – This community-oriented, odd sport is played on the streets of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, UK. There are two teams of locals – The Uppards and The Downards – chosen by where they live in town. The objective is to take possession of the ball and score a goal. The problem is the goalposts are placed three miles apart. The only real rules seem to be that you cannot kill someone and you cannot use a motorized vehicle to score a goal.

Other little known odd sports include: Zorbing – rolling down a hill inside a giant inflatable ball; Worm Charming — bring as many worms to the surface as you can (this sport is much less lethal than training for Snake Charming); Cheese Rolling — get you and your cheese down the hill faster than everyone else; Big Toe Wrestling — self-explanatory; and The Apple Race — racing your apples in Tasmania.

So the next time someone challenges you to ostrich racing or bathtubbing, take it seriously and practice hard. You never know when you’re going up against an odd sport world champion.