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New champion hurtles to glory in annual cheese rolling race

Participants take part in the annual cheese rolling competition at Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth. Credit: PA

Daredevils have thrown themselves down a steep hill in the annual death-defying Cheese Rolling Race.

Brave competitors sprinted, tripped and tumbled down Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire to try and win the 8lb Double Gloucester.

The recent dry weather had made then racetrack hard and even faster for the competitors who were cheered on by thousands of spectators.

Max McDougall celebrates his win. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

The winner of the first men’s downhill race was Max McDougall, 22, from Brockworth, who won for the first time as champion cheese chaser Chris Anderson, 31, who has the record of 22 wins over the past 15 years, was on holiday.

Last year Mr Anderson broke the record held by Stephen Gyde after winning the first of three men’s downhill races.

Mr McDougall said: “It was better than last year when I knocked myself out.

“I normally come second to Chris. I just went for it, pick a line and stick to it.”

The recent dry weather had made then racetrack hard Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Rebel cheese rollers have been staging their own unofficial event after health and safety fears caused the official competition to be cancelled in 2010.

The cheese is chased 200 yards down the 1:2 gradient Cooper’s Hill at Brockworth.

After a year’s hiatus, when police warned against the use of a real cheese, the imitation lightweight foam cheese was replaced with the genuine article.

Long-time cheese-maker Diana Smart and her son Rod, who have produced cheese for the chase for more than 25 years, once again provided the wheels for this year’s event.

Participants take part in the women’s race Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Four cheeses weighing about 3kg each and three smaller ones, weighing about 1.5kg, are used.

The unusual event has been celebrated for centuries and is thought to have its roots in a heathen festival to celebrate the return of spring.

The official event was cancelled after more than 15,000 people turned up as spectators to watch the 2009 competition.

Since then it has been held unofficially with the police keeping a watchful eye.

Local roads have been closed up to two-and-a-half miles around the slope.

The unusual event has been celebrated for centuries. Credit: PA

Some competitors travelled from across the world to take part in the series of madcap races, which attracted TV crews from around the world, including Netflix.

The second men’s race was won by Ryan Fairley, 29, from Brockworth, who took home a Double Gloucester for the ninth time.

Describing his technique, Mr Fairley said: “Just run and lean back and don’t just try and tumble forward because if you lean back you stay on your feet.

“My back does hurt a little bit but nothing that won’t sort itself out. I’ve got work tomorrow.”

One competitor was stretchered off the course with a suspected fractured ankle after falling during the second race.

The women’s race was won by Flo Early, 28, who picked up a Double Gloucester for the fourth time, after winning in 2008, 2016 and 2018, but also managed to sprain her ankle in the process.

Miss Early, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, explained her methods.

Flo Early won the women’s race Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

“If you go fast from the beginning the hill will do the rest,” she said.

“You want to keep your ankles heavy in the ground and aim for the gate – that’s the tips I have been given.

“I’m done now, this is it, I’m retired. I’m in pain with this ankle, it’s a sprain but it feels pretty uncomfortable.”

The final men’s downhill race was won by Canadian Mark Kit, 21, from Toronto, who had been inspired to take part after seeing videos of cheese rolling as a child.

“I didn’t know what was going on. I took the first 10 steps and I just started sliding and the next thing I knew I was at the bottom and nobody else beat me,” he said.

“Now we’re going to the pub. My cousin showed me a video when I was 13 years old.

“I got bronchitis yesterday and I figured I wasn’t going to win the uphill race and going down is a lot easier.”