The biggest event of the sports calendar in Revelstoke is the Snowshoe Snowball Contest held on Valentine’s Day since 1872. This event combines the stamina required to snowshoe 10 kilometers over hilly terrain with the accuracy of a marksman. During the snowshoe, the participants have to knock over 10 bottles of Kootenay beer with 10 snowballs that they make themselves.
The snowballing takes place at 2 kilometer intervals. After 2 kilometers the bottles are 10 meters away from the thrower and the distance increases by 5 meters at every throwing station until the bottles at the finale are 30 meters away. Any bottles of beer that aren’t knocked over by the contestant must instead be drunk. For this reason registered alcoholics aren’t allowed to enter the contest.
This event produces lots of interest and crowd participation. Snowshoers must not throw snowballs at each other at any time otherwise they will be disqualified. Any contestant “taking a rest” face down in the snow for more than a minute is also disqualified.
The event started when fur trappers hunted in the backwoods and walked miles each day in pursuit of the animals. In the evening the trappers drank lots of alcohol to rehydrate themselves.
The individual time trial starts outside the modern day café where Vlad was born. The contestant must first run to the Clock Tower and climb the stairs to the top taking care not to hit their head on the low doorways. They must then run around the top of the clock tower in an anti-clockwise direction five times. After completing this task they must bite three apples in half before descending to the bottom of the tower. There they have to throw ten cloves of garlic into a bucket situated twenty yards away. Only when they have symbolically got rid of the garlic can they run to the steps leading to the accurately named The Church on the Hill. The contestant runs up the hundred steps, taking care not to trip over the gypsy boy sleeping on the top step, to the church. Outside the entrance the competitor has to knock down five crosses from a distance of 10 yards using some old tennis balls provided especially for the occasion.
After completing this task the contestant runs down the steps and then has to complete 50 sit-ups while lying in a coffin. Then the contestant runs back to the clock tower and ascends to the top where they must run 5 times in a clockwise direction around the top of the tower before biting three more apples in half.
Once this is done they descend to the bottom of the tower and run to the café where they must gulp down a pint of tomato juice. Once this has been done their time is recorded and the next contestant can begin. If a competitor attempts to ingest some tablets to counter acid reflux or to prevent a stomach ache they will be immediately disqualified by the Ingestion Judge who fits false teeth into the person’s mouth which clamps their mouth shut.
The contestant then lies down for exactly 10 minutes in another coffin before beginning the bike race to Bran Castle. The false teeth are removed and the contestant leaves Sighisoara – the time begins when the rider cycles between a pair of whale bones. After 50 kilometres the cyclist must knock down 10 cardboard cutouts of Turkish soldiers using garlic cloves while still mounted on their bike. After a further 50 kilometres the cyclist must dismount and place fifteen turkey meatballs on a barbecue. Once the meat is cooked they must symbolically impale the turkey balls on a three-foot skewer and present the kebab to the Barbecue judge who will check that the meat is cooked. The judge will add a minute to the cyclist’s time for each meatball that isn’t properly cooked or that isn’t impaled correctly on the skewer. The cyclist then rides the last 40km to the castle at Bran and runs to the top of the castle. Here they catch a zip line which flies them over the finish line.
The modern pogo stick was invented just after World War I, although there is some debate as to whether it was first created in America or Germany. The German inventors were Hans Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall and the first two letters of their surnames do make the word POGO. A German patent was registered in Hanover in March 1920.
Pogo stick racing has been gaining in popularity in recent years, but the longest race for pogo stick competitors was started in 1970 by a group of backpackers in Essaouira in Morocco. They started pogo sticking along the Atlantic coast in the late 1960s and even tried reaching Marrakech but the wear and tear on their sticks was too great. In April 1969, one of the backpackers Kevin Duffner of Great Britain pogo sticked all the way to Ounagha, a distance of around 25 kilometres, without stopping, other than for a drinks break
The pogo stickers sent out word that the first world championship of pogo stick racing would take place on April 6th, 1970 from Ounagha, down to the coast at Essaouira. Around 200 competitors duly arrived for the event and were transported to the start of the race in camper vans. At 7am the starter shouted “Yeah, you can start now, if you want” and the contestants headed towards the coast at a speed of roughly 2.5 miles per hour.
On Easter Monday in Atherstone in Warwickshire an unusual sports event takes place that attracts hundreds of competitors. It’s the annual Beagle Chasing extravaganza,which dates from the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
The chasing takes place over a number of distances and comprises individual and team events. There are no separate races for men and women and no age-group categories. The main reason for this is that all contestants wear a hare costume and must carry a vegetable in their hand during the race, in deference to the diet of the hare. The beagles chase after an artificial scent laid by a dragsman, who wears a fox’s costume.
The scent is made from animal droppings or human urine, aniseed, and fixative. The dragsman pulls it along in a bag to create a cross-country trail. The oldest event is the Replace the Collar contest where individual hares chase a beagle across country, replace its collar, and return to the start all without dropping their vegetable on the ground. Each hare chases a different beagle and the dog is always given a five-minute start over the hare. The beagles are allocated to the hares by means of a lottery as are the vegetables that are carried. These must never touch the ground or be placed in the hare’s mouth, but they can be thrown into the air should the hare have difficulty in removing the collar and require both hands for the task. Indeed, the best collar removing hare of the 19th century was Simon Reynolds, who was a professional juggler and so could accurately throw carrots and lettuces high into the air for a good ten seconds. The vegetable can also be balanced on the nose or on top of the head if the hare so chooses.
Even though it’s a marathon race the Lanjaron – Trevelez is not the hardest race of the weekend. The Blue Ribbon event takes place on Saturday and it’s called the Backwards Hop race, where competitors hop around Trevelez five times in reverse. In this contest only one leg can be used for the entire race; to ensure this rule is strictly enforced the other leg is tied. Competitors can use wing mirrors attached to their shoulders to help guide themselves around the course; they must not be guided by a coach and can’t attach guide dogs to their bodies.
The steepest part of the course is at the southernmost edge of Trevelez where one 400-metre road connects the lower town with the upper town; this is the part of the course where the race is won and lost because most people have difficulty walking down this road in a forwards direction in dry weather. In fact most competitors spend more time on this section of the course than on the rest of the course altogether. Grooves are cut into the surface of the road to make gripping the surface slightly easier but even then it’s horrendously difficult going. Most injuries are caused when people overbalance on the later laps due to tiredness. Even the strongest hoppers can spend ten minutes negotiating this road.
The rest of the circuit is through narrow streets, past bakeries, shops, and cafes – the downhill section is fairly gentle and allows racers to gather their strength before the uphill. The person who has won this race most often is Benjamin Ortega from nearby Juviles with eight victories between 1948 and 1963; he trained for the race by hopping backwards up Alcazaba the third highest peak in the Sierra Nevada three times in succession. His advice for hopping backwards up the steep hill during the race was to take small hops and always keep the back straight so as to avoid overbalancing.
The fastest race is the final race of the weekend on the Sunday – the 10 lap forwards hopping race where the hoppers head down the steep hill and around the village. Strangely this race has had the worst accidents of the whole weekend, usually when a racer trips at the top of the hill and rolls downwards knocking over the other hoppers like bowling pins. Edinson Suarez from Cordoba has won this race five times during his career including a hat-trick between 1978 – 1980 – his fastest time was 2 hours 23 minutes and 18 seconds in 1979. He retired in 1984 after suffering an Achilles tendon injury when he was flattened from behind by a tumbling hopper on the hill.
The windiest place in the world is on the continent of Antarctica. Commonwealth Bay is about 48 km (30 mi) wide at the entrance between Point Alden and Cape Gray and was discovered in 1912 by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
The wind regularly exceeds 150mph and the average annual wind speed is around 50mph. The winds are katabatic in nature and flow along the steep surface of the ice shield towards the sea. The air flow is accelerated by the increasing gradient of the surface of ice and by the Cape Denison cliff monolith.
However, in the summer there are periods when the wind abates sufficiently for the Christmas Ski Yachting race to take place. The race has been held since 1948 and now attracts teams from 20 countries. The race takes place over a distance of 10 miles starting in the interior and finishing a mile from the sea cliffs.
Each yacht is crewed by four people. The boat has to be a minimum of 20 feet long and be fitted with at least six skis. Each yacht must be fitted with three anchors each of which must be strong enough to stop the yacht on its own in a 75mph wind. Two guide ropes are stretched across the ice at the finish line and are designed either to stop the yacht or allow the crew to bail out if the yacht isn’t stopping. As an emergency the crew also have to wear life-jackets just in case the wind proves too strong and the yacht heads over the cliff with the crew still on board.
When the forecast shows the winds for the following day are going to be relatively light, the yachts are towed to the start line in the interior by tracked vehicles. This towing allows the organizers to see that all the skis on the yachts are correctly aligned and are functioning accurately. Once the yachts arrive they are placed on the starting line downwind. The starter checks the wind speed and if it’s under 60mph he waves a wooden seal in the air. This is the indicator for the teams to rig their yacht and put up the sails.
One of the world’s most gruelling races takes place in the Tunisia desert in June of each year. The official name is the Tunisian Oasis Race although it’s also known as the Tunisian Desert Classic and The World’s Hardest Triathlon. It’s loosely based on an epic Saharan escape behind enemy lines by a British soldier during WWII.
Quite simply, contestants in the race must make their way through 80 miles of desert between Tatouine and Houmt Souk on the island of Djerba. Competitors carry a bicycle in case there’s any terrain where they can ride without sinking in the sand. There are no refreshments available on the course so the competitors have to climb coconut palms and hack down the fruit, which will provide them with much needed liquid. No running can take place on a tarmac’ed road or the contestant will be disqualified.
Contestants set out at dawn and head northwards from Tatouine towards the Sebkhet el Melah, a large salt sea, where competitors can sometimes use their bikes to ride across the salt-crusted ground. Once the salt sea ends, the racers head to the Mediterranean coast and then swim over to the island of Djerba before running to Houmt Souk. On land the route is marked by a red camel on a black background and inflatable red camels ten yards apart mark the safe swimming channel for the athletes in the Mediterranean.