Still being held throughout each year in Scotland and in many other countries, the traditional Highland Heavy Games go all the way back to the 11th century and possibly even before that in the Scottish Highlands. The same games, under the same rules, will be played once again by athletes from near and far at the Maine Celtic Celebration in Belfast on Sunday, July 17, on Steamboat Landing by the bay.
Anyone is welcome to join the Highland Heavy Games competition for a $10 entry fee. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the games start at 9:00 a.m. and continue to the finish line in the afternoon. It will be a long and hard day for the athletes, as the Highland Heavy Games test the strength and coordination of each competitor to their maximum capability. But the Highland Heavy Games are always easy and fun to watch.
What you see is the sheer strength of someone putting every ounce of energy into one single action. It is like watching the Olympic Games firsthand, but in Celtic cultural form and tradition.
At the top of the agenda for the Maine Celtic Celebration 2016 is the Scottish Hammer Throw. A heavy metal ball (12/16 pounds for women, 16/22 lbs. for men) is attached to a four-foot wooden shaft. With both feet in fixed position, the athlete whirls the hammer overhead and then tosses it forward in an attempt to reach a longer distance than any hammers thrown by competitors.
The Caber Toss is probably the event best known to symbolize the Highland Heavy Games. In his or her hands, the athlete holds up and balances a long tapered pine pole, then runs forward and launches the caber and tries to flip it end over end the longest distance of any caber toss by competitors, relative to a straight “12 o’clock” path.
An Open Stone Put is similar to a shot put, yet with a heavy stone as the object (8-12 lbs. for women, 16-22 lbs. for men). The stone can be thrown by any method as long as the toss begins with the stone in one hand cradled in the athlete’s neck before being tossed the longest possible distance. There will be a Heavy Weight Throw (28 lbs. for women, 42 lbs. for “masters men”) and a similar throw with weights not quite so heavy (14 lbs. for women, 28 lbs. for men). Weights are metal with handles attached, thrown with one hand by the athlete, some putting a spin on their toss. Again the longest throw is the winner.
In the Weight Over the Bar event, also known as Weight for Height, the athlete heaves a very heavy weight (56 pounds, or 4 stones) over a horizontal bar. Each competitor gets three tries, and those who are successful move to the next level in raising the bar until only one is left.
Whether you decide to compete or just watch, you will certainly be impressed by the individual strength and power of those who are serious competitors in these tough contests. If you are considering testing your strength in the Highland Heavy Games, you may contact Sam Denson via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.