Winning Gloucester, England’s annual cheese-rolling contest—which has contestants chase a seven-pound cheese wheel down a steep hill—is no easy feat. This year’s winner completed the extra impressive task of crossing the finish line after getting knocked unconscious, Food & Wine reports.
Unlike many of the competitors, 2023 cheese-rolling champion Delaney Irving didn’t spend much time training for the event. The 19-year-old from Canada was nearing the end of her six-week European vacation when she learned she’d be in Gloucester on the day of the race. After deciding to enter the contest spontaneously, she did a few practice rolls on her hotel bed in preparation.
The contest involves rolling a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese 590 feet down Cooper's Hill near Gloucester. The coveted curd reaches top speeds of roughly 80 mph, meaning cheese chasers need to roll as well if they hope to catch it. As Irving learned the hard way, this can result in injury.
“I remember hitting my head, I remember it hurting, and I remember waking up in the [medical] tent,” Irving told Greatest Hits Radio Gloucester after the competition. Though she wasn’t awake for the last stretch, she managed to reach the bottom of the hill before the other contestants, making her the winner of the women’s race and the first Canadian woman winner in the event’s history. (The history of cheese-rolling in the area dates back to at least 1826.)
Injuries are part of the cheese-rolling tradition. More than two dozen people were injured during the 2006 event, including 12 spectators. “We usually average around 30 to 40 people who need treatment,” Jim Jones, operations training manager for the local ambulance service, said at the time. “The most serious injuries this year appear to be a dislocated finger and a possible fractured ankle.”
Despite her blacking out, a CT scan showed Irving didn’t sustain any serious damage from her victorious tumble. She was able to walk away from Cooper’s Hill with some bruises and her grand prize of seven pounds of cheese.