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King of the creepy-crawlies: Coleraine man Mark Alcorn wins Australia's 35th cockroach race

By Laura Abernethy

Published 28/01/2016

Coleraine man Mark Alcorn grabs a podium finish in the 35th annual cockroach race in Australia
Coleraine man Mark Alcorn grabs a podium finish in the 35th annual cockroach race in Australia
A jar teems with the bugs

A Northern Ireland man has become a champion in one of the world's most unusual sporting challenges.

Mark Alcorn, originally from Coleraine, secured a podium finish in Australia's 35th annual cockroach race. The event at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane traces its origins back to when one region claimed their cockroaches were faster than another region's. Thousands have turned up at the spectacle on Australia Day ever since.

This was Mark's first time cockroach racing and he entered by chance as some friends persuaded him to go to the charity event.

The 30-year-old explained: "It's quite a big thing here for Australia Day and some of my friends were going along. It sounded like a bit of fun.

"My race was the first of the day and I like to think it was the most important one.

"The cockroaches are in a clear jar and they set it down in the middle of a mat and lift the jar and the first cockroach to make it to the edge is the winner."

Mark paid $5 to enter the race and another $5 to choose one of the cockroaches - marked for identification purposes - which were flown in from a university in Melbourne.

He named his beast Don't Blush Baby referring to a comment made by West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle, who caused a social media storm after he asked journalist Mel McLaughlin out for a drink during a live post-innings interview. He added: "I gave my cockroach a pep talk beforehand and told him not to be distracted by the bar girls and to stay focused and off he went."

His tactics worked as Don't Blush Baby was the first to scuttle across the line in the first of 13 races across the day.

Mark, who moved to Australia in 2009 and has now become a permanent resident, joked: "I was ecstatic when he won. There are video clips of me pumping my fists in the air and basking in the glory of it.

"Finally some recognition! A proud moment.

"I've been out here for five-and-a-half years and I think this was a crowning moment. It was possibly the best day of my life."

He walked away with a medal and a goody bag. Mark didn't come out as the overall winner from the day, but he has promised to come back next year for another shot.

"I think I'll go back next year and try to reclaim my title. Maybe if Don't Blush Baby survives I can use him again, but I might need to think of a new topical name for next time," he said.

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