Cheese Rolling: The Strangest Sport You’ve Never Heard Of

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Once a year, people from all over the world gather at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England for the annual cheese rolling competition. The sport involves a 200 yard hill, trained athletes, and rounds of Double Gloucester cheese rolling at speeds up to 70mph. The goal is relatively simple: catch the cheese. The event starts by sending a 7-9 pound roll of cheese down the hill. After the cheese has a one second head start, competitors chase the cheese. The first person to catch the cheese, or the first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill, wins the race and claims the cheese.

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While it may seem harmless, the sport is actually pretty dangerous and most events result in at least a few injuries. In 1993, fifteen people were injured - four seriously - chasing cheeses down the hill. The Cheese Roll used to have a formal management team with a group of paramedics to attend to the injured, but after 2010 the sport was shut down due to safety concerns. Since 2010, a group of locals have kept up the tradition and host the event every year on the Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday of May). Members of the areas rugby club and Young Farmers volunteer each year as “catchers” to help recover participants that lose their balance running down the hill. While there may not be any medical staff at the event, the locals are happy to help transport you to the hospital if needed.

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The sport has been around for hundreds of years, with the first written evidence of Cheese Rolling dating back to a message from the Gloucester town crier in 1826. Even then, it was apparent that the sport was an old tradition. Cheese Rolling has gained a lot of traction over the years, attracting hundreds of participants and spectators every Spring Bank Holiday. The cheese round itself has been supplied by local cheesemaker Diana Smart since 1988. In 2013, a local police inspector warned Diana that she could potentially be held liable for injuries that took place at the event, as a 7-9 pound projectile rolling at 70mph could cause some serious damage. This forced locals to switch to rolling a foam mold down the hill in place of the heavy cheese, but winners still get real Gloucester cheese as the prize.

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The 2020 annual Cheese Roll was cancelled due to COVID but is expected to return in May of this year. Chris Anderson, a soldier in the British Army, holds the title of most wins with over 22 race wins since he started competing in 2004. In his 14 years of competition, he has suffered from a broken ankle, concussion, a torn calf muscle, and bruised kidneys. Even after winning 22 Gloucester cheeses, he reportedly only likes Cheddar. Will he return to race in 2021? You’ll have to watch it yourself to find out.
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Adam Ewing has worked as an Engineer for aerospace and steel manufacturers as well as a Consultant for an R&D tax credit firm. He currently works as an Implementation Consultant for a financial software company. Adam has a B.S. and an M.B.A. from the University of Alabama. His interests include traveling, cars, cooking, and triathlons. You can also find Adam on LinkedIn.

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