[T]he first ever women’s world championship for Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling will be staged this summer at Ambleside Sports.
The traditional sport, at which women were allowed to compete for the first time only ten years ago, will feature the world title event in the “all-weights” division.
And like their male counterparts, women wrestlers will be expected to wear the traditional costume of long leggings with a singlet and elasticated centre-piece. Embroidered motifs are common but optional.
Cumberland wrestling is a key feature of the traditional sports fixtures throughout the Lake District each summer. Thought to have Norse or Viking origins, it was practised in the north long before football and cricket became popular games.
“We are very proud to be hosting the first world championship,” said Jak Hirst, the Ambleside Sports chairman and a former professional juggler.
“We have staged women’s events over the last few years but we are thrilled to have the world championship here in our 130th anniversary.”
The first Ambleside Sports featured wrestling along with the same events which are on the schedules today: fell running, track racing, track cycling and hound-trailing.
Cumberland wrestling has parallels elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in Iceland and in Brittany. In the UK, there are mixed events for juniors under 12, as happens in other sports, and then separate bouts for men and women. “We’ve had plenty of girls and women competing at Ambleside over the last few years,” said Jak Hirst.
Roger Robson, of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association, said that as with many traditional sports, the regulating body “was a bit backwards at coming forwards” but there had been progressive acceptance of the idea of women taking part.
“At Grasmere sports there have been female competitors for a number of years, and they get prize money commensurate with the men. It’s not like Wimbledon where the women get less.”
Women competed in wrestling by default after the Second World War because there was no mention of gender in the CWWA rules drawn up in 1906. In 1991 the success of a girl wrestler led to claims that her success put off lads from competing, and all mixed wrestling was banned. The onus was then on venues to sponsor female wrestling in their programme and that has slowly grown as an expected part of each event.
One of those hoping to take part in the new world championship is 20 year old Connie Hodgson, a sports coaching student from Dent in Cumbria. She’s competed successfully at home and abroad after inheriting the tradition from her father Trevor. In fact, she has three sisters Tracy, Hannah and nine year old Rosie – and a brother, 11 year old Ted, who also wrestle.
“We used to go with dad to the wrestling academy in Kendal,” said Connie. “It’s a quick and nimble sport. And it was something different to talk about at school.”
And her chances in the world championships? “I’ll have to wait and see. I broke my wrist, wrestling, so it depends how soon that heals.”
Ambleside Traditional Lakeland Sports will be held at Rydal Park, Thursday July 28.