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Nanaimo teen tumbles to win at cheese rolling race — despite being knocked unconscious

Delaney Irving was knocked unconscious while chasing a three-kilogram double Gloucester hard cheese on the steep Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester in the U.K.
Delaney Irving, centre, won the women's downhill race ­during the cheese rolling contest at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England on Monday. KIN CHEUNG, AP

A Nanaimo teen on vacation in England is a world champion in chasing a rolling cheese wheel.

But Delaney Irving doesn’t remember much about the finish of the crazy annual race down a near-vertical hill in Brockworth.

She was knocked unconscious after falling at the finish line, but had enough momentum to claim England’s Chasing the Cheese Race women’s title on the steep Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester.

Irving told the BBC she ran a “good race” going after the three-kilogram double Gloucester hard cheese.

“I remember running, then bumping my head, and then I woke up in the [medical] tent,” Irving said. “I still don’t really believe it, but it feels great.”

She woke up with the cheese wheel on her lap and was declared the winner of the women’s race.

Irving, who is attending Vancouver Island University this fall, was on a backpacking trip to England with a friend and only planned on watching the famed race.

At the last minute, however, she entered. A video posted to Twitter showed a mass start and several people falling at the top of the hill. Irving also fell midway down, but got up and made a last dash to the finish, wiping out with just a few metres to go, but tumbling over the finish line first.

Jessica Krog Irving, Delaney Irving’s aunt, posted photos and hearty congratulations on social media. “My niece Delaney is the 2023 women’s champion in the Chasing the Cheese Race,” said Krog Irving. “I’m so ridiculously proud of her.”

Matt Crolla of Manchester won the men’s race. Asked by the ­Guardian how he prepared, Crolla said: “I don’t think you can train for it, can you? It’s just being an idiot.”

In written records, the Cooper’s Hill cheese rolling dates back to 1826, on the spring bank holiday, but is believed to have been staged for centuries. People from all over the world now participate, risking injuries for a chance of cheese glory.

The cheese is given a one-second head start and can reach speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour down the 180-metre-long hill.

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