Contestants chase cheese wheel down a hill in chaotic UK race

LONDON (AP) — The big cheese of extreme U.K. sports events is back.

Hundreds of spectators gathered Monday to watch dozens of reckless racers chase a 7-pound (3 kilogram) wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down the near-vertical Cooper’s Hill, near Gloucester in southwest England.

The first racer to finish behind the fast-rolling cheese gets to keep it.

The cheese-rolling race has been held at Cooper’s Hill, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of London, since at least 1826, and the sport of cheese-rolling is believed to be much older.

The rough-and-tumble event often comes with safety concerns. Few competitors manage to stay on their feet all the way down the 200-yard (180 meter) hill, and this year several had to be helped, limping, from the course.

Canadian contestant Delaney Irving, 19, won the women’s race despite being briefly knocked unconscious.

“I just remember hitting my head, and now I have the cheese,” said Irving, who comes from Nanaimo, British Columbia.

Matt Crolla, 28, from Manchester in northwestern England, won the first of several men’s races. Asked how he had prepared, he told reporters: “I don’t think you can train for it, can you? It’s just being an idiot.”

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