Sports the Olympics Forgot – Coconut Shy – Part 1

The coconut shy is a staple attraction in British country fairs, but in India the game was taken far more seriously and evolved into a major sport especially around Cochin. The Cochin Coconut Shy takes place over the Easter weekend and involves many different events, which have gradually been added since the competition first took place in 1911.

The original events largely consisted of throwing cricket balls at coconuts perched on stands at various distances from the thrower. The shortest distance is 30 yards and the furthest distance 70. Each thrower has one minute to knock off six coconuts with a maximum of 10 balls. The winner is the person who knocks off all the coconuts in the quickest time with the fewest number of throws. Since 1972, professional cricketers have had their own separate event to allow other people to win the prizes. Gurdeep Singh has won the most coconut shy titles with 36 victories between 1988 and 2005 including an unprecedented Grand Slam of titles in 1997, when he only used 33 balls to knock off the 30 coconuts.

There are also archery competitions where the coconuts are situated 50, 70, and 90 yards from the archer. Any type of bow, other than a crossbow, may be used in the competition – again six coconuts are the targets and the archer has 10 arrows to get the job done. Teams from Bhutan are not allowed to enter the competition due to the incidents in 1987 when a team from that country deployed tactics that are allowed in their own country but are frowned upon everywhere else. The team deliberately tried to put off the other teams by shouting at them when they were about to shoot and jumping up and down in their line of sight. This caused a number of altercations and the withdrawal of the India ambassador from Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, for six weeks. Barry Kim from Canada has won the most archery titles with 16 victories from 2006 to the present day. Ironically, Barry is allergic to coconut oil and milk, and so can’t join in any of the victory celebrations.

Another spectacular event is the coconut shooting, where coconuts are catapulted across the sky for shooters to try and hit with their double-barrelled shotguns. This is in imitation of clay-pigeon shooting in the UK. The police have to be on hand to ensure that no one is injured by stray pellets when retrieving the shattered coconuts from the ground. Major EJ Williams from Simla won the most coconut shooting titles with 12 victories between 1924 and 1946, although his name is rarely used at the contest because of his infamous 1945 quote “I’d rather be shooting tigers than these bloody flying coconuts. Fetch me a whisky and soda.”

There are some rather spectacular field events involving coconuts, which were added after the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the first ones to be held in Asia. The first event was the Coconut Putt, where the idea is the same as the Shot Putt, namely to hurl the coconut as far as possible using a shot putt technique. The record putt is 98 feet 4 inches by Maxim Gordov from Belarus in 1998.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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