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Terry Sparkes takes out Open Men's title at the Australian Highland Games Championships at CelticFest Warwick 2023!

CelticFest congratulates Terry Sparkes, winner of the Open Men's title at the Australian Highland Games Championships which were held at CelticFest Warwick 2023 last weekend! Terry will travel to Norway in March 2024 to compete in the World Amateur Highland Games Championships. Congratulations also to Sian Cooper, winner of the hotly contested Open Women's title at the AHGC, which was run by Highland Muscle. Sian set a new Australian record for Weight over the Bar, at 16 feet 2 inches, and fellow competitor Kalina Vikilani also set a new Australian record in the Heavy Weight for Distance, at 37 feet 11 inches. Well done ladies, you are doing the sport proud! The Men's Open was also a tightly-fought competition, with four breaking away from the pack and Stephen Henry ultimately prevailing to go back-to-back champion in this division. In other results, Rob Mitchell held off Terry Sparkes to win the Australian Caber Toss Champion and Robbie Braithwaite won the Weight for Height trophy.
By CelticFest, the athletes had competed in four qualifying events: The Hayland Gathering, the Melbourne Highland Games and Celtic Festival, the NSW Central Coast Highland Challenge and the Australian Celtic Festival. Each competitor placing top 3 in their division in these events automatically qualified to compete in the Australian Highland Games Championships in Warwick.

There were four divisions: Open Mens, Open Womens, Masters Mens, and Mens under 90kg. All current champions competed in Warwick - Terry Sparks (Open Mens), Fran Fitzpatrick (Open Womens), Stephen Henry (Masters Mens), and Morgan Westmoreland (Mens Under 90kg) – with around 25 athletes in total. Other athletes to watch were Sian Cooper, Kalina Vikilani, and Macauley Tinker. 

​The Scottish Highland Games are an annual spectacle based on strength and athleticism flavoured with abundant national pride. These games originated in Scotland centuries ago, most likely as a much more serious type of competition designed to find the best warriors, couriers, clan bodyguards and so on.Some of the heavy athletic events are believed to have their roots much farther back in history than the current organised highland games, having been used by ancient Celts as tests of strength and stamina as early as the third or fourth century. 

The main events of the Games in which CelticFest visitors could choose an athlete to cheer on across the weekend were Weight over the Bar, Putting the Stone, Hammer Throw and everyone’s favourite, the Caber Toss.

Weight over the bar CelticFest Highland Games 1
Weight over the bar CelticFest Highland Games 2

Weight over the bar, or weight throw for height, is contested at highland games in Scotland and elsewhere, and at track and field events in Ireland.
Weight over the bar requires competitors to throw a weight over a raised bar. The object thrown is a 25.4kg weight with a handle at the end of a short bar which must be thrown using just one hand. Weight for Height is one of the greatest tests of explosive power in Heavy Events. The weight is thrown with one hand, overhead for maximum height. The athlete is given up to three attempts at each height and is still in the competition until he misses three attempts and is scored on the last successful height cleared. The winner is the athlete that clears the greatest height with the least amount of misses.

Hammer Throw CelticFest Highland Games 2
Hammer Throw CelticFest Highland Games 1

The hammer throwing event features a hammer made from a metal ball weighing around 22 lb for men or 16 lb for women, attached to a wooden pole or handle.
Participants use the handle to whirl the hammer around their head and then throw it as far as they can.

Putting the Stone Celticfest Highland Games
Putting the Stone Celticfest Highland Games 2

The Stone Put is one of the main  Scottish heavy athletic events at modern-day Highland games gatherings. While similar to shot put, the Stone Put may use an ordinary stone or a steel ball. The weight of the stone will vary from 16 to 26 lb for men or 8 to 18 lb for women depending on which type of stone put event (Braemar stone or Open stone) is contested.
Robert Burns was keen on stone putting and apparently left his favourite putting stone at Ellisland Farm near Dumfries. If he saw anyone using it whilst he lived there he would call "Bide a wee" and join in the sport, always proving that he was the strongest man there.

Caber Toss CelticFest Highland Games 2
Caber Toss CelticFest Highland Games 1

The caber toss (Scottish Gaelic: tilgeil a' chabair) is a traditional Scottish athletic event in which competitors toss a large tapered pole called a caber. In Scotland, the caber is usually made from a larch tree and it can be between 5–6 metres tall and weighs 40–70 kilograms. The term caber derives from the Gaelic word cabar, which refers to a wooden beam. The person tossing the caber is called a "tosser" or a "thrower".
It is said to have developed from the need to toss logs across narrow chasms (in order to cross them), lumberjacks needing to transport logs by throwing them in streams, or by lumberjacks challenging each other to a small contest. 
The record for most caber tosses in three minutes is currently held by the Canadian Danny Frame. He managed to perform 16 successful caber tosses on 20 July 2018 at the Heart of the Valley Festival in Middleton, Nova ScotiaCanada.


Weight for distance is a weighted ball and chain measuring no more than 18” from handle to ball.

The competitor holding onto the weight with one hand uses a spinning motion inside of a rectangular box called a trig to gain momentum and throws the weight for maximum distance.

This event is split up into two events using both a heavyweight and lightweight implement.

The weight is thrown one-handed from a rectangular (4.5 feet by 9 feet) area behind a toe board or trig. The athlete must stay behind the trig at all times during the throw. The techniques vary, but usually involve a turning or spinning motion to increase momentum before the release. Each athlete gets three attempts, with places determined by the best throw.

The implement consists of a steel or lead weight (usually spherical or cylindrical) attached by a short chain to a metal handle. The handle may be a d-ring, a triangle or a ring. The size of the weight depends on the class of the competition.

For advanced male athletes, the light weight is 28 lb, or two stone (12.7 kg). The heavy weight is 56 lb, or four stone (25.4 kg). For all female athletes, the weights are 14 and 28 lb (6.35 and 12.7 kg). For male master class or senior athletes, the weights are 28 and 42 lb (12.7 and 19.05 kg).

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