Honoring the ancient Celtic tradition, the Scottish Highland Games are a test of strength, skill and technique.
Perhaps the most recognizable event at any Highland Games is the caber toss. In Gaelic, caber simply means pole, and the objective of the caber toss isn’t about distance, but style and accuracy.
The athlete rests the caber against their shoulder while clasping their arms around it. Then they try to lift if off the ground while keeping it perfectly balanced. Once the caber is lifted the athlete begins to run, building momentum, before tossing the caber.
Caber toss is judged with the aid of an imaginary clock face on the ground, with the thrower facing the 12 o’clock position. Points are deducted according to the number of degrees that the caber is off from the perfect 12 o’clock mark.
THROWING THE WEIGHT (FOR HEIGHT & DISTANCE)
Throwing the weight is divided into two separate categories: throwing for distance (with a 28-pound weight) and throwing for height (with a 56-pound weight). Throwing for distance involves the thrower to grasp the weight in one hand, spin around three times and toss.
Tossing for height involves a high jump-style bar, which is raised after each successful attempt. Strength, speed and coordination are key to successfully competing in throwing the weight.
THE HAMMER THROW
Originating in the granite mining quarries in Scotland, workers would compete by tossing actual sledgehammers. Although athletes no longer toss hammers, today they use an iron sphere attached to a chain, the goal of the competition remains the same – toss the hammer as far as you can! In the event, the thrower stands with his back to the mark, swings the hammer around his head to gain momentum and then releases it over his shoulder.
PUTTING THE SHOT
Derived from the “stone of strength,” which saw clansmen compete in tossing stones for distance, putting the shot is an excellent test of strength. With weights weighing anywhere from 16-to-22-pounds, athletes would lift the stone in one hand in front of their shoulders, run to gain momentum and release.
Similar to the weight toss, the sheaf toss consists of competitors using a pitchfork to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar. Each competitor has three chances to toss the sheaf cleanly over the bar without touching it and the bar is raised after each round.