independent

Monday 14 October 2019

The weird and the wacky, but all in the name of sport

The World's 100 Weirdest Sporting Events
The World's 100 Weirdest Sporting Events

Book review - Alan Aherne

Here's a scenario that I reckon numerous readers will be able to identify with: your iPhone displays a battery capacity of, say, 25%, but it crashes as soon as you attempt to do something and you're left staring at a blank screen.

It happened to me recently, and it filled me with an intense desire to pick up said device and fling it with intent at the nearest wall.

The only thing stopping me in my tracks was the obvious financial implications of buying a new phone, but I reckon it might have been worth it just to feel somewhat better.

Anyway, little did I realise it at the time, but did you know the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships are held annually in Savonlinna in Finland, about two hundred miles from the HQ of Nokia whose batteries have never let me down?

Not alone that, but there's two categories, original and freestyle. The first is fairly straightforward, with the prize going to the person who throws their phone the greatest distance in an overarm style.

Marks are awarded for creativity in the latter category, and that explains why 2013 freestyle victor Erika Vilpponen threw the phone backwards over her shoulder while riding a circus bike.

I learned this, and a whole lot more besides, in 'The World's 100 Weirdest Sporting Events' by Geoff Tibballs, picked off the bookshelves in the hope of providing some light relief after a pre-Christmas spell wading primarily through dull autobiographies.

And in fairness, I was entertained and amused in equal measure, as some of the topics covered were almost too wacky to be true.

Of course, it could lead the reader off on a tangent where that regular question pops up: what actually constitutes a sport?

Darts is often on the receiving end of that one, and I heard a theory recently that got me thinking. Somebody suggested that it's only a sport if you either have to change or remove your everyday footwear in order to take part!

Anyway, back to the book under review; it's divided into nine chapters and, as one might expect given the subject matter, it doesn't take itself too seriously and is written in a light-hearted manner.

The more off the wall sporting events covered include the Indonesian activity of sepak bola api, a variation of soccer which sees the barefoot players kicking a ball that's on fire!

Or how about the Henley-on-Todd River Race in Australia, a version of Oxford versus Cambridge but with a huge difference.

Because the river bed is dry, the teams carry their boats along the course rather than rowing.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the events featured had their origins in a pub, with drunken dares or bets put to the ultimate test.

It's not all fun and games, though. Did you know that the World Sauna Championships ran from 1999 to 2010 in Finland before reaching a tragic climax?

Five-time winner Timo Kaukonen and Vladimir Ladyzhensky from Russia both passed out after spending six minutes in the sauna. Given that the starting temperature was ten degrees above the boiling point of water, perhaps the only surprise was that it took so long for a fatality to occur.

Both men suffered terrible burns, and the Russian died from his injuries. In an understatement of mammoth proportions, organisers in Heinola confirmed that it would no longer be hosting the event because it felt that competitive sauna sitting had lost its 'original playful and joyous characteristics'.

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