Charleston Scottish Society
29th Scottish Games & Highland Gathering
September 16, 2000
SCOTTISH HEAVY ATHLETIC EVENTS
"TOSSING THE CABER"
The caber used at some Highland games weighs over
150lbs (70kgs) and is 17ft 4ins (5.3m) long. The Braemar caber is only 132lIbs (59.9kgs)
in weight but is 19ft 9ins (6m) in length. The largest caber recorded in the Guinness Book
of records is 25ft (7.62m) and 280lbs (127kg).
Contrary to popular belief, the caber is not thrown for distance but for style. The games officials will set the caber on its end with the thickest portion in the air. The athlete rests the caber against his shoulder and, clasping his arms around it, performs the difficult task of lifting it up off the ground whilst keeping it perfectly balanced. When he's achieved that, he will give it a quick flick up and move his hands under the narrow end. He's now ready to throw it.
The competition is judged with the aid of an imaginary clock-face on the ground spread out flat in front of the thrower with him facing the 12 o'clock position. That invisible clock-face keeps pace with him as he runs and when he has reached the desired speed he will stop abruptly at what becomes the 6 o' clock position and heave the caber up so that its heavy end lands in the middle of the clock and the whole caber turns right over, ending up with the narrow end pointing exactly towards the 12 o'clock position.
Quite frequently none of the competitors will achieve the exact 12 o'clock position and the prizes will be given for the throw that is nearest to the ideal. In some games, if the caber was not thrown, an old-fashioned two-handed, crosscut saw would be brought on and the heavies would saw an inch off the caber until one of them threw it.
"PUTTING THE SHOT"
Sergeant Major Robert Starkey was one of the best known heavyweight athletes during the 1920s and 30s and in 1924 was coach to the British team for the Paris Olympics. That team included such famous figures as Harald Abrahams and Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame and the American team included swimmer Johnny Weissmuller - Tarzan.
"THROWING THE WEIGHT"
|Throwing the weight is divided into two
different events: throwing it for distance and throwing it for height.
Said to be one of the most graceful of heavyweight events. There are two standard weights - the commonest being 28lbs (12.7kgs). The weight consists of a 28lb ball, chain and handle, the overall length of which must not exceed 18 inches (0. 45m).
In simple terms the thrower grasps the weight in one hand, spins round and throws it as far as possible. More accurately, the thrower has a distance of nine feet (2.7m) between a peg and a trig. Grasping the weight and facing the trig, he stands beside that peg and swings the weight to the side and then round behind him. He's now ready to start his throw which consists of three waltzing turns, gathering momentum on each. On the third pirouette and at exactly the right moment, he heaves the weight as far as he can. A protective cage extends around the sides and rear of the thrower to safeguard the public!
In some amateur games, throwers will use both hands to hold the weight but that is the method used for the Olympic hammer and not the Scots 28lb weight.
You will notice that the stewards for this event
always have a plentiful supply of bars - they are frequently snapped when the weight falls
back down onto them.
"THROWING THE HAMMER"
|The origins of throwing the hammer have never
been in doubt. Wherever hammers were used - blacksmiths, quarries or farms - a
diversionary pastime would be throwing the utilitarian wooden-shafted sledgehammer. The
sport's long history can be judged by the following extract quoted by author David Webster
from an 1826 games poster:
the best at throwing the
Throwers used to gain great momentum - and
distance - by turning the body rapidly to build up speed before releasing the hammer.
Instances were very common of throwers losing their grip on the shaft or of releasing it a
little too late with the hammer flying over or, even worse into the crowds. This soon
brought about a ban on that method!
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