When someone is described to be a sports fan, it's assumed that the person enjoys watching or playing basketball, football, and other popular sports. However, there's so much more to athletics than just those games. In fact, the world is rife with sporting events that most people would consider weird but have actually gained quite a loyal following.
Of course, because events featuring unusual sports don't attract as many sponsors as mainstream sports do, the prize money offered by them can't compare to what's offered in prize-rich events like Wimbledon and the FIFA World Cup. Nevertheless, the participants in alternative sporting events still continue to develop their skills, mostly for the pure thrill of competition and the love of their sport.
Here are ten of the weirdest sporting events around the world arranged according to the prize money they offer:
10 Derbyshire World Toe Wrestling Championships / Prize Money: $0
Most people would probably be turned off by the thought of locking toes with a complete stranger. However, the World Toe Wrestling Championship, held annually since the 1970s, has actually been gaining popularity in recent years with around twenty new participants joining each edition of the competition.
The sport is actually similar to arm wrestling, except that in toe wrestling, the game is played with bare feet. In fact, it's common courtesy for each player to remove their opponent's shoes and socks. The battlers then link big toes and exert force to pin their opponent's feet for three seconds while avoiding the same in return. The wrestler who wins two out of three rounds, which alternate between right and left feet, wins the match.
The competition, which has separate men's and women's divisions, doesn't offer prize money since all earnings are donated to "Wish Upon a Star", an organization that arranges holidays for sick children. Nevertheless, despite not having a cash prize to aspire for, toe wrestlers are serious about their sport. In fact, in 1997, organizers of the World Toe Wrestling Championships even applied, although unsuccessfully, for Olympic accreditation.
9 Knaresborough Bed Race / Prize Money: $0
First staged in 1966, the Great Knaresborough Bed Race is part fancy dress pageant and part grueling time trial. The fancy dress pageant aspect of the event involves ninety teams of six runners and a passenger all adorning various costumes and parading through the medieval streets of Knaresborough in the United Kingdom. The costumes, with themes ranging from hospital personnel to Greek gods, are judged to determine the event's Best Dressed Beds, while the parade is the basis for choosing the Most Entertaining Teams.
Despite the pageant seeming a little bit batty, the grueling time trial is very serious. The 2.4-mile course consists of steep terrains, grassy banks, and even a river crossing. And all for what prizes? While the event raises between $130,000 and $160,000 each year, the prizes are limited to non-cash rewards like kegs of beer since all of the money raised through the contest is donated to various charities.
8 To Hell’s Gate on a Wheelbarrow / Prize Money: $450
Each year in June, the Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya serves as the venue for the "To Hell's Gate on a Wheelbarrow" race organized by the park's administrators. The competition, divided into pair and team categories, involves pushing a teammate in a wheelbarrow over a 5-kilometer course.
The event has the primary objective of raising funds for the construction of a Conservation Education Centre in Hell's Gate National Park.
7 The Muggle Quidditch World Championships / Prize Money: $500
Yes, the sport played by Hogwarts pupils in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series has been turned into an actual sport. However, unlike the fictional quidditch game that features players flying on brooms, muggle quidditch is played on field space the size of a hockey rink, but still with seven players on each team: 3 chasers, 2 beaters, a keeper, and a seeker. To make the sport more like the literary quidditch, each player must stay "mounted" on a broomstick throughout the game.
While finding its roots in U.S. colleges, Muggle Quidditch has grown in popularity to appeal to a wide range of sports fans. In fact, the 6th International Quidditch Association World Cup held in 2013 featured 1,500 players forming 80 teams hailing from 36 states and 4 nations.
6 Wife Carrying World Championships / Prize Money: at least $525
Most people who are told that wife carrying is an actual sport will probably assume that it's a fun activity held in some small isolated town in a far corner of the world. However, wife carrying is in reality somewhat of a global sport. In fact, in North America, teams have to win their state championships before being eligible to compete in the North American Championships. The winner there then gets to participate in the Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajarvi, Finland where teams from Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Estonia, Ireland, and the United States compete for world supremacy.
Despite the sport's name, any adult can carry another adult in the competition. "Wife carry" actually refers to the method of carrying, which has its dark beginnings in nineteenth century Finland. That time was rife with brigands who not only ransacked homes but also abducted local women.
The prize money for winning the event is $5 per pound of the carried person, the minimum amount being $525.
5 Man vs. Horse Marathon / Prize Money: $1,600
One night in November of 1979, pub owner Gordon Green debated with local Glyn Hones about who would win in a race between a man and a horse. They agreed that only an actual race would settle the argument. The very next year, 50 runners and 15 horses competed in a 22-mile race in Welsh Town, Wales -- the first edition of the annual Man vs. Horse Marathon.
Surprisingly, because men are faster than horses when passing through marshes, humans have actually been able to win the event twice. In fact, 2004 winner Huw Lobb took home $40,000 -- the collection of prize money since the event's conception. (Horses aren't allowed to win the cash prize.)
The 2007 human victory by Martin Cox was very controversial. Even though he had crossed the finish line first, judges gave the title to the horse "Duke's Touch of Fun". Their reason? The time it took for a veterinarian to check the mare during the race had to be deducted from the horse's race time. In anger, Cox threw the trophy away and vowed never to race again.
4 Quilton Australian Dunny Derby / Prize Money: $3,000
Not known to all, "dunny" is an Australian term referring to a toilet. It's also a means of transport during the annual Quilton Australian Dunny Derby, which is the highlight of the Outback Festival held every September. Each team is composed of 5 members: 4 lifters plus a member to be seated on the dunny as it's carried. To make the event more fun, several racers decorate their dunnies and wear costumes.
Organizers don't recommend using the race dunnies before or during the event.
3 World Championship Tuna Toss / Prize Money: $3,000
In 1979, some members of the fishing community in Port Lincoln, South Australia were thinking of how they could spice up their annual festival to draw in more crowds. They decided on tuna tossing after noticing the arduous way fishermen used to load fish from their boats onto trucks.
After testing out various fish sizes and methods, organizers settled on using a 20-lb. fish with a rope and handle attached to it. Several burly men were favorites to win the contest, but to everyone's surprise, the smallest entrant, a teacher from the town, beat all other participants by meters. It was later discovered that winner John Penny was a hammer thrower who had trained for the Olympics.
The 35th Annual World Championship Tuna Toss will take place at the Tunarama Festival from January 24 to 27, 2014. A rubberized tuna will be used in place of an actual fish.
2 Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest / Prize Money: $20,000
Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest is an annual competition held every 4th of July at the original Nathan's branch in Brooklyn, New York. Beginning in 1972, the event features contestants who attempt to eat as many hotdogs and buns within a given time, the record being 69 hotdog sandwiches in 10 minutes achieved by American Joey Chestnut in 2013. Chestnut is the all-time leader in championships with seven consecutive titles beginning in 2007.
Controversy marred the 2009 edition of the contest when seven-time champion (2000-2006) Takeru Kobayashi couldn't compete because he had refused to sign an exclusive contract with the event's organizers. In 2010, he was arrested by police after attempting to jump on the stage at the contest's conclusion in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings. All charges against Kobayashi were eventually dismissed.
1 ISTAF's Sepak Takraw / Prize Money: $40,000
Imagine volleyball with two or three players per team being allowed to use only their feet, knees, chest, and head to touch the ball. Imagine, too, that the ball is a hollow softball made of woven rattan, a kind of wood. That's sort of what sepak takraw is.
The sport may be considered obscure in most parts of the world, but in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia where the game originated, sepak takraw is widely known. In fact, the International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) has been conducting major competitions for the sport with more than a hundred countries sending teams to the events.