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By Jarrett Medlin
After a two-year hiatus, the St. Louis Scottish Games (stlouis-scottishgames.com) is back, October 1 and 2 in Forest Park. Organizer Wilson “Turk” Lewis still recalls the first time he visited the games. “It was like walking onto the set of a Errol Flynn movie, in 16th century Scotland,” he says fondly. This year’s festival includes pipe bands, sheepherding, and Highland dancing. Oh, and we can't forget the heavy events themselves. “You don’t have to be Scottish to do this,” notes athletics chair Scott Runnels, “You just have to appreciate our culture.” Runnels breaks down the events for newcomers.
• Caber Toss: Picture tossing a 20-foot utility pole end over end, with scoring based on how the caber lands. “It’s finesse,” says Runnels. “There are many people who can lift 150 pounds, but to hold something that long with a 4-inch diameter at the base is difficult.”
• Hammer Throw: Like the Olympic event, but with one major difference: “You can’t spin. You stand in one place, spinning it above your head, and throw it over your shoulder.”
• Stone Put: Similar to the shot-put competition seen in Beijing, but the steel is replaced with stone. “The modern shot put originates from its history.”
• Sheaf Toss: Derived from harvest time, when farmers tossed bails of hay into barn lofts, the contest challenges athletes to use pitchforks to “throw a burlap sack stuffed with hay over a pole vault bar.”
• Weight Over the Bar: The name says it all: Contestants attempt to throw a 56-pound weight as high as possible over a horizontal bar. “Sean Betz set a world record—which has since been broken—in 2006 by throwing the weight 19-feet, 6 inches.”
• Weight for Distance: No creativity points awarded for this event’s name, either. Here, points are awarded across classes, with athletes tossing 28- and 56-pound weights. “And women are welcome, too,” notes Runnels, of all the events.