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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Hail the conkering heroes
Richard Partington (left) from kettering and Luke Sage from West Haddon
Luke Sage (right) goes on the offensive
England has two new world champions following a fiercely fought sporting contest in Northamptonshire.

Richard Swailes and Liz Gibson beat off an international field of competitors to claim respectively the men's and women's world conker championship titles in the village of Ashton.

Mr Swailes, the hometown favourite, took the 38th annual championship on Sunday, replacing the previous top hitter Neil Fraser.

Ms Gibson, from East Sussex, ensured an England double and brought to an end the reign of French champion Celine Parachou.

Sexism row

The tournament, played on a knockout basis, took place on Ashton's village green.

The 400 competitors were split into men's women's and children's sections.

However, men and women are not allowed to compete against each other.

This triggered a row in 2001 when officials prevented Ms Parachou striking a blow for female players by taking on her male counterpart.

Among those aiming for conker immortality were players from China and New Zealand, as well as a strong European contingent.

To ensure fair play, organisers supplied the conkers, thus preventing the use of banned supplements such as vinegar.

About 1,000 conkers were picked for this year's championship, all of which were drilled and laced by the officials.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Neil Fraser, former World Conker Champion
"Just smash the conker that's all it takes"

Click here to go to BBC Northamptonshire
See also:

03 Oct 02 | England
13 Oct 01 | England
03 Jul 01 | UK
08 Dec 00 | Education
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