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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 16:37 GMT
Trying not to lose their marbles
The action hots up in the marbles ring
The world marble championship is a Sussex tradition
A great Easter tradition was upheld in a Sussex pub on Friday with the start of the annual British and World Marbles Championships.

The game was played at its spiritual home, The Greyhound Inn, in Tinsley Green.

The village, near Crawley, is reputed to be the scene of an epic marbles battle in Elizabethan times over the hand of a local maiden.

Up to 150 people were expected to compete in this year's tournament.

World Marbles Champion Mark Parsons
Mark Parsons was the champion in 2001

Competition organisers, the British Marbles Board of Control (BMBC), have this year created a special "Golden Oldie" category in honour of the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Players have to be aged 50 or over to battle it out for a trophy donated by sponsors, the brewers Charles Wells, and a coveted golden marble.

Julia McCarthy-Fox, of the BMBC, said: "We pride ourselves that the tournament is about tradition not competition.

"It's very much that people want to uphold tradition rather than be world-beaters."

Marble terminology
Cabbaging - not shooting from the correct place in the ring
Fudging - unsporting and advantageous movement of the shooting hand
Knobbler - person who collects and returns stray marbles
Tolley - a glass or ceramic sphere used to shoot at the target marbles
Nose drop - equivalent of tossing a coin to start the game

The BMBC is keen to maintain an interest in the historic game in the face of competition from computer games.

Mrs McCarthy-Fox said: "If you look at the price of kids' toys and games today, they all need batteries, recharging or plugging in.

"Marbles are just simple games that are easy to play. Give kids a box full of marbles and they will play for hours."

Players have passed on their skills and techniques through the generations since the tournament was revived at Tinsley Green in the 1930s.

It has also created epic figures in marbles circles such as Jim "Atomic Thumb" Longhurst, a gardener who wowed crowds with the pin-point accuracy of his tolley flicking.

Another giant of the game was the 5ft 2in Welshman, Wee Willie Wright, who kept a hot water bottle inside his coat to keep his flicking thumb warm.

The 2001 champion was Mark Parsons while in the team event, Johnson Jets scored a 25-18 final win over the Handcross 49ers.

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22 May 99 | UK
The games children play
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