Home News The winner of this British countryside competition gets… cheese

The winner of this British countryside competition gets… cheese

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“Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!” hundreds of people shouted in unison.

Eight-pound wheel Double Gloucester Cheese Fly down a mountain. A few seconds later, two dozen people followed suit. The first person to reach the bottom of the mountain wins, because the slope is so steep that it is almost impossible to stay standing while sprinting.

According to local lore, the cheese chase is one of the most bizarre traditions in Britain, and perhaps the world, dating back to at least the early 1800s. While the origins of the race are unclear – some say it’s related to grazing rights on the land or fertility rituals – today people come from all over the world to watch or take part in the event.

Thousands of people turned out to watch the race at Cooper’s Hill in southwest England on Monday, despite the local government declaring it unsafe for both competitors and spectators. Winners came from as far away as Germany, the United States and Australia, including Gloucestershire.

Dylan Twiss, a 25-year-old from Perth, Australia, who won one of the tournaments, said that when he realized he would be in the U.K. when the tournament took place, he knew he had to compete. “I said, ‘OK, I’m going to do it and I’m going to win,'” he said.

Twiss, the outdoor sports coach, said he tried to stay relaxed at the top of the 200-yard hill. Once the race started, he “just went with the flow,” running and tumbling as fast as he could. “I got a gash on my knee, but that’s a small price to pay,” he said. Holding the prize: Double Gloucester Large wheels.

Before the first race, it began to rain and the crowd began to stir. “Put down your umbrellas!” onlookers shouted, using the common British term for umbrellas, frustrated that their views of Cooper’s Mountain were blocked.

The rain, though brief, may have been a blessing. It made the ground much softer and therefore safer for those rushing down from it, said a volunteer medic, who said he usually “runs around like a headless chicken” providing medical care to competitors in years without rain.

It was unclear if anyone was seriously injured this year, though the injuries were serious. Two men limped down the hill holding their ribs, and at least one said he had gone to a hospital.

Last year, one of the winners Delaney Irving of Canadawas knocked unconscious before crossing the finish line. In 1997, More than 30 people and had to be treated by paramedics, according to local news outlet Gloucestershire Live.

Participants can’t say they weren’t warned: before the event, Gloucestershire Police Assistant Chief Superintendent Arman Mathieson advised people attending or watching the event to “consider the risks”.

No entry form or waiver is required for the race. There are three men’s races and one women’s race, each with about 25 participants, as well as a children’s uphill race and an adult uphill race. Participants simply show up at the top of the hill and squeeze onto the starting line.

Louis Graves, a police officer who finished in the top five in a men’s race, was covered in mud and bleeding from his knees. He ran for a few seconds before falling down the hill.

“Once you start racing, you don’t stop,” said Graves, 24, who lives about two hours away. He brushed off any warnings about the risks. “I know what I’m doing,” he said, but added that he probably won’t race again.

The audience was mesmerized by the scene. “This is crazy,” said photographer James Collins, who came to watch the game out of curiosity.

“I just wanted to see people jumping off the hill,” said another spectator, Vega Salsbury, 19. “Now that I think about it, it’s pretty steep.”

One of the winners, Abby Lampe, a financial services consultant from Raleigh, North Carolina, won for the second time after winning two years ago. (Last year she missed the competition to attend a Taylor Swift concert.) Thankfully, she did not suffer any serious injuries during the competition.

“The outcome of the tournament was as good as it could be,” said Ms. Lampe, 23. “I want to do it again, defend the title and bring the tournament back to the United States.”

As for her trophy? She said she’ll pack it in her carry-on luggage and store it in the fridge. It’ll be placed underneath the rest of her 2022 prize haul, another round of Double Gloucester cheese.

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