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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Grasmere Sports

FURNESS athletes starred at the traditional Olympic Games of Lakeland, which took place on Sunday at Grasmere Sports.

As it has done for 162 years since records began, this blue-riband event proved every bit as dynamic as this year’s London Games

No sooner had bellman Tommy Sedgwick, former Senior Guides Race record holder and clad in the white coat he normally wears for showing cattle, rung in “Grasmere” with his trusty hand-bell than the skies cleared over Silver Howe and Loughrigg – just to leave occasional heavy showers,

Fell runners ran, wrestlers wrestled, under-17s sprinted on the track in the famous arena, paraglider pilots soared like thistledown and hound trailers watched their dogs dash uphill and down dale as top Cumbrian rivals providing the pick of the crop.

Recent rain meant it was treacherous underfoot both up the slopes of Butter Crag and in the wrestling rings – when loss of traction could happen in a flash to contestants habitually clad in stockinged feet.

The racing for children initially re-introduced two years ago after a dearth of athletic events in the arena for many years was this year extended to include under-17s – a popular highlight for the 5,000 strong crowd.

So popular is the wrestling at Grasmere that two rings are embodied in the arena far below the Lion and Lamb on top of Helm Crag – as the wrestlers included Scots in their kilts and champions from Brittany.

Some cracking encounters ensued, as roars of jubilation and disappointment mixed in equal portions sounded from the tiered seating.

But it was the Senior Guides Race that took the Blue Riband biscuit, the most thrilling there has been for many years – and with celebrity entrants like Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland Lonsdale, and Andy Taylor, the lead singer of heavy metal group, Iron Maiden.

This main event saw two Yorkshire runners vying for first place, as they have through the years. Robert Hope finally overtook Rob Jebb near the finish in a thrilling end to a drama packed race – followed by Tom Addison from Kendal who was third.

There are many slips and slides as runners lost their footing, and Rob Hope – who has won the senior guides three times now – vowed the event was a real “blood-cougher” where the physical exertion is so great “you continually taste blood in your mouth”.One runner broke an ankle near the summit and was stretchered down by a team from Langdale/Ambleside mountain rescue team.

New Grasmere bellman Tommy Sedgwick, of course, was the arch rival to great Barrow fell runner Fred Reeves who still holds the record set up in 1978 of 12 minutes 21.3/5 seconds.

Between them, Mr Reeves and Mr Sedgwick won the race 10 times between them through the 70s. On Sunday though thanks to the slippery conditions underfoot Mr Hope’s time was 13 minutes and 17 seconds.

Elsewhere the Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling – as always – proved a highlight of the day.

It was not easy. The two rings became so trampled and muddy in the end they were combined so a square of clean grass could be used.

Michael Kirkham from Bootle, who wrestles for Waberthwaite Academy, crowned the day for Furness by keeping his feet – and winning the boys eight–stone title.

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