Woman knocked unconscious as she wins famous cheese-rolling race

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

A new addition to the list of sentences I never thought I’d write: A Canadian woman ran down a hill chasing a wheel of cheese, but bonked her head on the way and forgot she won.

“I just remember hitting my head, and now I have the cheese,” Delaney Irving, 19, told the Associated Press after she’d regained consciousness in a medical tent. The 7-pound hunk of Double Gloucester cheese is her trophy, and she joins a long roster of champions from the annual event.

Lots to unpack here! Let’s add some context.

The annual cheese-rolling race started at least 196 years ago, according to town records, at Cooper’s Hill, a frighteningly steep incline about 100 miles west of London.

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Straightforwardly dubbed the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling but also called the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, the event is exactly what it sounds like: Organizers roll a wheel of cheese down the hill and people chase it. Whoever catches it first wins the cheese.

Men and women participate in separate races. Burly volunteer rugby players wait at the bottom of the 597-foot hill to catch people as they tumble and flail across the finish line. Medical staff members await the inevitable injuries. (In 2013, local police tried to stop the event because of its dangerous nature and failed.)

Irving was quickly attended to after her fall. She also later stopped by a hospital just to ensure all was well. She received a CT scan to make sure her concussion not dangerous.

Her mother, Krista Endrizzi, told Canada’s Global News she was glad she learned Irving was fine before she saw footage of the fall.

“She looked like a rag doll, and when she landed she wasn’t moving,” Endrizzi said. “It wasn’t every parent’s dream. But she’s OK so that’s all that matters.”

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

So, is Double Gloucester cheese worth all the literal blood, sweat and tears?

According to cheese.com, it’s a hard cheese with “mellow, milky, nutty” flavors. It is not especially rare or valuable — my local grocery store chain sells it for $19.49 a pound, meaning the 7-pound cheese-race wheel would go for about $137. The wheel of cheese is, however, provided by local cheesemaker Diana Smart, and has been for more than 25 years.

No, the Gloucester Cheese Rolling is mostly about ordinary people tasting the glory of victory.

“I don’t think you can train for it, can you?” said Matt Crolla, 28-year-old winner of one of the men’s races, in the Associated Press story. “It’s just being an idiot.”

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kathleen's work.

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