Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

US runner wins cheese rolling race

Competitors take part in the annual Cheese Rolling event at Coppers Hill near Brockworth, Gloucestershire
Lucy Townsend won the ladies race of the annual Cheese Rolling event
An international field of daredevils took part in the cheese rolling competition

An American daredevil has defied health and safety warnings to win the annual Cheese Rolling competition.

Kenny Rackers, 27, travelled more than 4,000 miles from Colorado Springs to a steep hill in Gloucestershire to take part in the world-famous event. The estate agent, who wore a US stars and stripes morph suit, had travelled to the UK to compete in the race having seen previous events on the television.

"I came over specially for this and I did what I had to do to win," he said afterwards. "It feels great, I trained a long time for this and got hurt on the hill practising. I came three days early and I took a bad spill, but I came to win and that's what I did. I came 3,000 or 4,000 miles just for this race. I put it on my bucket list and today it was to win and that's what I did."

The rebel cheese rollers again staged their own unofficial event after health and safety fears caused the official competition to be cancelled in 2010. Thrill seekers usually chase an 8lb piece of Double Gloucester down the steep Cooper's Hill at Brockworth, Gloucester but this year organisers, who were trying to make the event safer, had replaced the cheese with a lightweight foam version. There was a large police presence at entrances to the hill but the event went ahead as planned.

The bizarre annual event attracts participants, spectators and media from across the world. About 2,000 spectators basked in the blazing sunshine to watch around a dozen daredevil athletes pursue the "cheese" 200 metres down the 1:2 gradient slope of grass, brambles and nettles.

Competitors slip, somersault and tumble their way to the bottom in spectacular fashion during the bone-crunching races - and the first person to grab the cheese wins. The field was wide open this year as regular champion cheese roller - 25-year-old soldier Chris Anderson - missed the competition having been posted overseas with 1Rifles.

Mr Rackers won the opening race and first to grab the cheese in the second race was Australian traveller Caleb Stalder. Mr Stalder, 30, from Taree, near Newcastle, New South Wales, thought it would be good fun to take part having also seen it on television.

"You can't control yourself whatsoever so it's a case of rolling down and seeing where you end up," said Mr Stalder, who is currently living in London. "I can't believe I got the cheese. It's awesome. I wasn't anywhere near being first down and the cheese took a bit of a turn and I caught it."

The first local winner this year was Lucy Townsend, who grabbed the top prize in the women's race. The 16-year-old student, from Brockworth, also won the women's race last year. She said: "I won it last year. It's the second time I done it and I won again."

Local Ryan Fairley, 23, from Brockworth, won the third men's race - the first time he has claimed a cheese. Mr Fairley, a builder, said: "It feels good to have won. I've raced about six times but this is my first official win. It was brilliant and I just love the feeling of getting hit hard, love it, and I've got the cheese to prove it." The fourth men's race was won by Tomoaki Tanaka, 39, from Japan, who dressed as a ninja to race down the hill.

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