What are Heavy Celtic Athletics?
The caber toss is one of the oldest and unique events featured in Highland Games. It is also of the most trying tests of skill and strength. With no verified origin, it is speculated that this event may have developed from the logging industry where they launch trees into the river, or possibly as a training technique for throwing logs to cross moats in battle.
An athlete's toss is not judged on distance or height, but on how closely it falls to the 12 o'clock position on an imaginary clock when lands after the "turn." To "turn the caber" an athlete must first pickup the caber by the tapered end and then run forward and toss the caber so that it turns end on end, with the upper (un-tapered) end hitting the ground first. The athlete must turn the current caber in order to advance to the next largest caber. The competition continues until all athletes fail on one caber or the Games uses all of its cabers. Cabers can be over 19 ft. tall and 150+ lbs.
The sheaf that is tossed is a burlap bag filled with straw or mulch. A pitch fork is used to toss the sheaf over behind the athlete and up over a cross bar for height (similar to a pole vault bar).
The sheaf toss probably originated from harvest time in the Highlands. To move the harvest into the barn, the field workers would toss sheaves of wheat or bales of hay into a wagon using pitchforks. As the bales piled up in the wagon, the workers would have to pitch the bales higher and higher to fill the wagon. Once the wagon was brought from the field to the barn, the workers would then pitch the bales up to the storage loft on the barn's second floor.
The sheaf typically weighs 12-13 lbs. for women and 16-20 lbs. for men. The starting height of the bar is agreed upon by the athletes. Athletes may wait until the bar reaches the height they would wish to enter the competition at, but must compete each height once they start. Athletes have three chances to clear the bar at each height.
The Braemar Stone is one of two versions of the Stone Put, or "Putting of the Stone" event. The Stone Put is similar to the Olympic shot put, only instead of using a steel ball, athletes throw a large stone. A traditional feat of strength, highland men would use river rocks to test who could throw the farthest and were thus, the strongest. All the competitors would use the same stone provided at a specific competition to ensure accuracy in judging.
The Braemar Stone weighs from 20-26 lbs. for men and 13-18 lbs. for women and must be thrown with one arm from a standing position (athletes are not allowed any run up to the toe board). The athlete is allowed three throws and is judged on the best distance of the three.
Scottish Hammer Throw - Heavy and Light
The Scottish is traced back to the Tailteann games which was held in Tara, Ireland around the 2000 B.C. This event tells of the Celtic hero of that time period named Cuchulanin, who was known to once grip the wheel of a chariot by the axle and then throwing it farther than any mortal man. This is not only part of a legend but also a part of hammer throw history. As time passed men who were inspired by this legend would throw blacksmith hammers (which were readily available) to test their strength against others.
The modern Scottish hammer throw is similar to the track and field hammer throw event. The Scottish Hammer is made of a round metal ball attached to a handle about 4 ft. long. Facing away from the throwing field athletes whirl the hammer about their heads and throw over the shoulder with feet fixed in position. Heavy hammers weigh 22 lbs. for men and 16 lbs. for women. Light hammers weight 16 lbs. for men and 12 lbs. for women. Each athlete gets three throws and is judged on the throw with the furthest distance.
Weight for Distance - Heavy and Light
Also known as the Weight Throw, the athletes throw the weight with one hand from the throwing area with a 9 ft. approach to the "trig," or toe board. Most athletes spin the weight similar to a discuss thrower, but any throwing style may be used. The athlete get three throws and is judged on the throw with the greatest distance.
The event was started by men throwing the 28 lb. and 56 lb. weights used to tie off horses that were commonly found in blacksmith shops. The weights used today are still 28 lbs. and 56 lbs. for the men and 14 lbs. and 20-28 lbs. for the women.
Weight for Height
In the Weight for Height or Weight over Bar event a block or ball weight with a handle attached is used. The goal is to throw the weight up over an adjustable cross bar (same equipment that is used for the Sheaf Toss). Typically athletes will face away from the bar and swing the weight up and over it. Athletes may only use one hand to throw. Similar to the Sheaf Toss, the starting height of the bar is decided by all competitors and athletes may choose to wait until the bar is at the height they wish to start at. Once they throw they must compete each time the bar is raised. Each athlete is allowed three chances to make it over the bar at each height. Women throw 20-28 lb. and men 42-56 lb. weights depending on the class of the thrower.