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B.C. woman knocked out as she tumbles to victory in cheese-rolling race in the U.K.

19-year-old from Nanaimo wins cheese chase down steep hill in Gloucester, England
Delaney Irving, of Nanaimo, is bringing home the big cheese after winning the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling women’s event near Gloucester, England, on Monday, May 29. (John Gilmour photo)

A Nanaimo woman took the term ‘knock yourself out’ literally when she entered – and won – a cheese-chase race during her trip to Europe.

Delaney Irving, 19, had been travelling with a friend and they decided they’d go watch a cheese-rolling race near Gloucester, England, that annually draws hundreds of people to watch and compete.

The event on Cooper’s Hill – a near-vertical slope where competitors run, stumble and tumble down as they try to catch a three-kilogram wheel of double Gloucester cheese – was held Monday, May 29.

“We decided that we should go watch the race, so we headed over to England for that reason,” said Irving, in an e-mail interview. “We only decided about a day or two before the race that we would compete in it. I heard about the race a few years ago when my dad showed me a video of it. I never thought I’d be competing in it but here we are.”

There were about two dozen cheese chasers in the women’s division.

“As soon as the cheese was pushed down the hill, we were off,” she said. “My strategy was to just roll as soon as I felt myself falling and I ended up rolling down most of the hill. At the very end of the hill I got back up onto my feet, but soon after fell on my head and rolled across the finish line unconscious.”

She was unconscious for about two minutes and was taken to a medical tent where she came to and started to piece together what had happened and that she had won the race. She later went to a hospital for a precautionary CT scan, which showed everything was OK.

“My body is pretty bruised and achy, but other than that I’m good,” Irving said. “I’m very lucky that I didn’t hurt my head too badly.”

And the reward for going through her ordeal?

“The prize was the seven-pound cheese and a scarf – and bragging rights,” Irving said.

She flies back to Canada this week, when she will find out if she can bring the cheese wheel home in her carry-on bag, but she thinks she’ll have to check it in with her luggage and she already has plans for the cheese when she gets back to Nanaimo.

“Once I get back I’ll have some friends and family over and we’ll have the ultimate charcuterie board,” she said.

Irving said she’d like to return, one day, to Cooper’s Hill, but not necessarily as a competitor.

“I would definitely go back to watch again…” she said. “But now that I’ve done it and won it, I’m not in a huge rush to fling myself down a hill again,” she said.

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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