In a tradition believed to span hundreds of years, dairy enthusiasts in possession of likely below-average regard for their own personal safety gathered in Gloucestershire to throw themselves down a steep hill in pursuit of a large wheel of cheese.
This year, more seasoned competitors in the women’s race at the near-vertical Cooper’s Hill saw their vivid dreams of victory curdle, as a 19-year-old from Canada seized first place – despite knocking herself unconscious during the 180-metre dash for the finish line.
Delaney Irving, the victorious first-time entrant on a backpacking trip around Europe, told reporters how she woke up after the race to learn she had won the coveted prize of a 3-kilogram cheese wheel, even though she “kind of blacked out for most of it”.
“I decided yesterday that I would do the race and then I started running. I remember hitting my head and now I have the cheese,” Ms Irving told ITV News West Country.
Footage of the world-famous race showed the 19-year-old from Vancouver Island out in front of all but one tumbling competitor as she herself tripped, flew several metres and rolled into the lead with enough momentum to cross the finish line in pole position.
The race was “good ... now that I remember it”, she told the BBC, adding: “I remember running, then bumping my head, and then I woke up in the [medical] tent,” she said. “I still don’t really believe it, but it feels great.”
Ms Irving, who reportedly plans to enrol at university next autumn, said she thinks she will return to Gloucestershire for next year’s race, adding: “Despite the injuries, I think it’s worth it.”
Ms Irving’s mother, Krista Endrizzi, vowed that she would accompany her daughter to next year’s race, telling Canadian broadcaster Global News: “I don’t want her to do it again. We’ll watch ... I’ll be restraining her.”
Speaking from her home in Nanaimo, Ms Endrezzi said she learned of her “pretty adventurous” daughter’s participation in the race – and her resulting head injury – in a phone call at 5:30am on Monday.
“I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And I said, ‘Go to the hospital. And I love you. And you’re crazy. And I love you,’” she said. “I didn’t know she was doing it, I thought she was just watching it. Apparently, she has a concussion, she was getting a CT scan, but I think she’s fine, as far as I know.”
Calling the footage of the race “disturbing”, Ms Endrezzi said: “She looked like a ragdoll, and when she landed she wasn’t moving. It was not every parent’s dream. But she’s okay so that’s all that matters.”
Ms Irving told Vancouver Island outlet CHEK News that, upon arriving at the hill, she thought that the race was “probably not a good idea” but that she “just [had] to do it”.
“Right away, my adrenaline kicked in, I decided I’m gonna do this, I’m going to try to go as fast as I can,” Ms Irving said from her Gloucester hotel room, adding: “I feel like I should be hurting more after watching that video, but I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
Her uncle, Ray, told the outlet that he had talked about the cheese rolling race for years with his niece – and he was in awe that she had competed.
“When we got more information, we’re like: ‘No, she actually did win, this is her’,” he said, adding: “I’m so excited for her, we’re so proud. It’s fantastic.”
The outlet reported on Monday that Ms Irving had just two days left in Europe, and was mulling over how to pack the giant wheel of cheese for a feast upon returning home to Vancouver Island.
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