Photo: kcxd via flickr
Not a whole lot happens in the summer months in terms of dramatic, pressure-cooked, make-or-break sports battles, certainly not in a non-Olympic, non-World Cup year like 2011 – at least as far as mainstream sports are concerned. Basketball is over. There is no Super Bowl, no Stanley Cup. Baseball races usually don’t really get exciting until mid-September. And for international sports fans, Formula One takes a month off and top European soccer clubs are only just starting to get warmed up.Yet that hasn’t stopped some enterprising folks from creating a number of intriguing athletic contests, a disproportionate number of which take place in the summer. Here are 10 recent sporting competitions that might not have received a lot of coverage in your local paper:
Imagine, instead of squaring off at the TD Gardens or Rogers Arena, the Bruins and Canucks were to battle it out at the bottom of a swimming pool wearing snorkels and fins. Well, then you'd have underwater hockey, which might rank as the least spectator friendly sport known to man. After all, it's not easy or advisable to slurp on a Budweiser while submerged.
The Underwater Hockey World Championships were held in late August in Coimbra, Portugal. The World Confederation of Underwater Sports, the body which oversees underwater hockey, confirmed to us that Australia emerged victorious this year by beating South Africa 6-1 in the final. We take them at their word, though it is a bit difficult to verify: the games were played underwater.
When it comes to throwing mobile phones long distances, nobody approaches the Finns. Contestants from Nokia-land traditionally overpower all takers, and the 2011 championships in Savonlinna, Finland were no exception. Finnish hurlers took the top three places in the men's, women's and junior categories.
The Lumberjack World Championships are the Olympics of logging-related athletics, and Hayward, Wisconsin is its Athens. Events this year the gamut of what people can do with wood, and all in the spirit of healthy competition: standing block chops, underhand chops, springboard chops, 60-foot climbs and, of course, log rolling.
As disc golf enthusiasts are keen to point out, their sport offers as an environmentally friendlier, cheaper and healthier alternative to the Scottish game. As of 2010, there were over 3,000 disc golf courses in the United States, the overwhelming majority of which are free. Santa Cruz, California was the site of the 2011 PDGA World Championships. The prize money is nothing to be scoffed at; this year's total purse was over $108,000, with the winner taking home $7000. Not bad for throwing a Frisbee around for a few days.
Any sport that features plenty of women in bikinis is bound to be a success down the road. Heck, it worked for beach volleyball. Headball, which has been played for decades at Hungary's Lake Balaton, became an official sport, with its own organisation, in 2010. The first-ever Headball Cup was played in Budapest on August 19. The results have yet to be posted; it seems all the scantily clad women distracted the scorekeeper.
Although this contest is called the Wife-Carrying World Championships, and although contestants from around the planet are invited and do participate, this is simply a battle between two countries: Finland and Estonia. Apparently the wife-carrying training programs in these two countries are second to none, for, since the championships were first launched in 1997, no couple from outside Finland or Estonia has won, and the Finno-Ugric domination of the sport shows no signs of waning.
Taisto Miettinen of Finland carried his wife, Kristiina Haapanen, to the title for the third time in a row this year -- the first three-peat in the history of the competition. A message to married couples who are busy training right now in the hopes of earning a little wife-carrying cash on the side: Give up. Unless you're Finnish or Estonian, you have no chance of winning.
Bicycle polo is perhaps the sport with the widest following of all those listed here, which, within the span of the decade since its inception in 2000 has garnered active players in several dozen countries. If its popularity continues at its present pace, then hardcourt bike polo may go mainstream in a few years.
Like its equestrian counterpart, the sport uses mallets to whack a ball into a goal. The European Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships have been dominated by Swiss side L'Equipe, which has rode on to victory that past three years. Seattle will play host to the world hard court bike polo championships in late September.
Of course, summer does not have complete monopoly on wacky sporting competitions. The World Series of Beer Pong is slated for Las Vegas from January 1-5.
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