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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 02:39 GMT 03:39 UK
Conkerers prepare for championships
Pair battling it out at the World Conker Championships
Teams will come from all over the world for the championships

Some sporting fans may have got the impression football and rugby were the only contenders likely to dominate the back pages this weekend.

But a group of English conker competitors will be vying for the nation's attention when they try to smash the foreign opposition in the World Conker Championships on Sunday.

The annual contest, held on the village green in Ashton, near Oundle, Northamptonshire, has attracted more than 350 challengers to fight it out for the winning trophies.

Up to 5,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the event, which will raise money for blind charities.

CONKERING: THE RULES
Competitors are not allowed to use their own chestnuts
The lace between knuckle and nut must measure 8 inches
The striker must not deliberately miss the conker
Tangling of laces (snags) will be noted. Three snags and you're out
Striker has three shots: opponent has three shots. Game continues until a conker is smashed

England swept the board at last year's championship, which sees competitors travelling from as far as New Zealand.

Women's title winner Liz Gibson, 49, from West Sussex, and victor in the men's event, 52-year-old builder Richard Swailes from Northants, are returning this year to defend their conker crowns.

The championships looked threatened earlier this year when sweltering temperatures during the summer heatwave caused horse chestnut trees to drop their conkers early.

Those that fell were deemed too small for competition status, and the crisis even led to a black market in chestnuts.

But organisers managed to gather the 1,500 conkers required for the contest, which ideally need to be 1.25 inches wide.




SEE ALSO:
Hail the conkering heroes
13 Oct 02  |  England
Battle of the sexes ruled out
14 Oct 01  |  England
Smashing time with conkers
13 Oct 01  |  England
Threat to conker contest
26 Sep 03  |  Northamptonshire


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