An American Woman Won Britain's Traditional (and Painful) Cheese Rolling Contest for the First Time Ever

Abby Lampe and dozens of others tumbled down a hill after wheels of Double Gloucester, the first time the race has been held since 2019.

Abby Lampe from North Carolina celebrates her win with the cheese in the woman's race on June 05, 2022 in Gloucester, England
Photo: Cameron Smith / Getty Images

For the first time since 2019, several dozen hopefuls literally threw themselves down a ridiculously steep hill in the west of England, as they tried desperately to catch up to… a seven-plus pound wheel of cheese. That's right, after a pandemic-related hiatus, the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake was held in Gloucester on Sunday and, for the first time ever, an American woman came away with one of the titles (and one of the wheels of Double Gloucester cheese that everyone was trying to grab).

There were 25 contestants in the first men's race and the bruised and battered winner was a familiar — if mud-streaked — face. Chris Anderson won both the race and a wheel of cheese for the 23rd time, and he swears that this is the last year he's going to compete. "I was so scared beforehand," he said, according to Gloucester Live.

Chris Anderson poses for a photo with the cheese after winning the first man's downhill race on June 05, 2022 in Gloucester, England
Cameron Smith / Getty Images

Another local lad, Jamie Evans, won the second race down the 200 meter (656 feet) hill, while Belgian Robbe Gabriels and Egyptian Amr El Shourbagya tied for the final men's race. They joked to the BBC that if they had a knife, they could cut the wheel of cheese and share it between them.

ontestants in the men's downhill race chase the cheese down the hill on June 05, 2022 in Gloucester, England
Cameron Smith / Getty Images

But recent North Carolina State University grad Abby Lampe flipped and flopped her way down the hill (and we're not kidding — the contestants seem to bounce down the steep slope) and is believed to be the first American woman to bring home the big cheese.

Lampe told Sports Illustrated that she trained for the race before leaving North Carolina, and did a test run when she arrived in Gloucester. "I went to Dorothea Dix Park, which is a local park by Raleigh, and I rolled down some hills trying to figure out the best way to roll down a hill," she told the outlet. "And I thought it was fun and all, but like, in comparison to Cooper's Hill, it was lightweight. There was no comparison. So I actually watched hours of film in the week leading up to the cheese race. Because I wanted to understand their strategies and where they started from and how they rolled."

Her prep work definitely did the job: in videos from the event, she is seen sprinting to an early lead before gravity gave her a hand on the way to the bottom. The 21-year-old told NC State's alumni magazine that she didn't finish the race completely unscathed. "I have a few bruises on my left leg and some scratches, and possibly some burst blood vessels on my hand," she said. "They're very minor injuries, so I can still walk and talk. It was very muddy, so I had mud in my teeth, actually. I also think I chipped a little bit of a tooth."

It wasn't long before the news of her (slightly painful) accomplishments made it to this side of the Atlantic. "This is quite the accomplishment," North Carolina governor Roy Cooper tweeted. "Congrats Abby Lampe on becoming cheese-rolling champion of the world."

Gloucester considers cheese-rolling to be an extreme sport and, after watching some of the clips from Cooper's Hill, it's pretty hard to argue with that description. The tradition stretches back to at least 1826, the date of the earliest written reference to cheese-rolling, but some believe that the races could've been held for hundreds of years before that. According to the BBC, some of the other annual events on Cooper's Hill included wrestling for a belt, grinning through a horse's collar to win a cake, and a shin-kicking contest.

Maybe somebody should've told the Gloucester locals about, say, coin flips or rock-paper-scissors, or anything that doesn't involve shin kicks or high-speed cheese chases.

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