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World Conker Championships
British-born Sandy Gardner wins the women's title for France
Eric Shackle (shack)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-11 17:49 (KST)   
A second French invasion of England, led not by William the Conqueror but by Sandy the Conkerer, succeeded at the World Conker Championship in Ashton, Northamptonshire, earlier this month.

Sandy Gardner, 36, a British-born member of the French National Conker team, was crowned Conker Queen for 2006. Her Chestnut Majesty beat 63 other women contenders for the throne.

This annual competition, which is organized by the Ashton Conker Club, first began in 1965. (The club was formed after bad weather prevented locals from going on a fishing trip.) Each year the competition is attended by teams from around the globe, who compete on the village green until the victor is led to the Conker Throne and crowned with conkers.

The event is used not only to keep this traditional game alive but also to raise money for the blind and visually impaired.

Conkers is played between two contestants. They hold conkers, otherwise known as chestnuts, on strings and knock them together until they break. The person left with their conker intact is the winner.

This year Britain maintained its long-held possession of the world championship title when Chris Jones, a 48-year-old computer worker from Kennington, London, defeated (or deconkered) male contestants from the U.K., France, Germany, Austria and 11 other countries. In fact 256 men competed in the championship.

A report of the historic event published in The Yorkshire Post said: "Wearing four inch black platform boots, black and red tights, and chewing gum, Mrs Gardner claimed the ladies' World Conker Champion title... three years after first lacing a horse chestnut on a string."

It quoted Queen Sandy as saying: "The village where we live is where they hold the French conker championships. On the day we moved in three years ago, they were holding the tournament, and I played. For a bit of fun, we decided to come and play here as well with some friends. We call ourselves 'The French National Conker Team' -- but I'm not actually sure that I technically qualify to represent France."

According to Reuters the organizers ensured a fair game by handing out conkers for the contestants to use. This avoided the risk that contestants might bake or pickle the conkers to make them harder. This is an old schoolyard trick familiar to generations of commonwealth citizens.

If wikipedia is correct, the word conker comes from a 19th-century dialect word which means snail shell. Few people today realize that the game was first played with snail shells. There is also a theory that the name is linked to the verb conquer, "as the game was also called conquerors."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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