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Highland Heavyweights

Highland games have their origins in the clan system, where they were used by chieftains to single out their strongest warriors. The modern event takes place over five months every summer. As well as the caber, events include throwing the hammer, putting the shot, tug o' war, track and field events, dancing and piping competitions. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, is said to have witnessed a Highland games held at the Paris Exhibition of 1889 and to have been so inspired that he adopted hammer throwing, shot putting and pole vaulting for the Olympic Games held seven years later.

One of the regular competitors, Neil Elliott, is arguably the best caber tosser in the world. He has a 20.5 inch neck, a 55 inch chest, he stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and he weighs 130 kilograms. His biceps measure 18 to 20 inches and his legs are 28 inches around. How did he get that way? Well, he eats 20 tins of rice pudding every week, and that's just for starters.

Neil competes in up to 45 Highland games each year, travelling around Scotland and all over the world. 'Between 40 and 45's as long as I stay injury-free,' he says. 'That's the biggest worry, the body breaking down, because the body gets brutally abused.'

Neil is an industrial painter by trade but his passion is the caber, said to be the toughest of all the Highland disciplines. The caber is a tree trunk or a telegraph pole anything up to 22 feet long, and the tosser has to flip it in such a way that it will land with the precision to drop forward in a straight line.

Sadly, caber tossing never made it into the official Olympic lineup of accepted sports.

Watch the video here.
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