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15 Quirky World Championships

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Every four years, athletes from around the world compete in more than 50 sports at the Winter and Summer Olympics. But not every sport is fit for the Olympic stage. Here are a few non-traditional international matchups.

1. THE WORLD BEARD AND MOUSTACHE CHAMPIONSHIP

Long hair, don't care! Competitors come from all over the world to show off the beards, mustaches, and whiskers they’ve been cultivating for years at the World Beard and Moustache Championship. The international contest is divided into 17 categories, including everything from Hungarian Moustache to Garibaldi beard. While the time and place of the 2016 world championship has yet to be announced, this year’s U.S. championship took place on September 3 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

2. WORLD COW-MILKING CHAMPIONSHIP

Hand milking world championship via Facebook

It's udder chaos at the World Cow-milking Championship in Malonno, Brescia, Italy. The contest, set for October 16 this year, challenges teams of two (one human and one cow) to produce as much milk as possible in the shortest amount of time—without the help of machines. This year's participants will take on undefeated champ Gianmario Ghirardi who got 8.7 liters of milk from his cow Mirka in just two minutes in 2014.

3. WORLD SUDOKU CHAMPIONSHIP

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Every year, the World Puzzle Federation welcomes more than 200 brainteaser fans from over 25 countries to the World Sudoku Championship, held in a different nation each time. This year's competition—a part of the World Puzzle Championship, which includes games like Kakuro, Mastermind, Battleships, Complex Mazes, Word Search, and others—will take place in Senec, Slovakia, from October 16 to 23. There's no prize money, instead all contenders compete for two days for the honor of being Top 3 in individual, teams, contestants over 50, contestants under 18, or newcomers.

Word to the wise: The registration deadline has expired, but you can still enter by October 10 if you're a member of your local World Puzzle Federation chapter and you're willing to fork over an extra 15 percent in participation fees. You can train with a few sample puzzles here [PDF].

4. MOBILE PHONE THROWING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

husin.sani via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Ever been so annoyed with your phone that you want to chuck it? The Finns have harnessed that frustration and made mobile phone-throwing into what the organizers of this competition call a “light and modern Finnish sport.” If you have some experience flinging a phone as far as you can, you can try out for the annual Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships in Savonlinna, Finland. But leave your smartphone at home. Contestants are only allowed to pick from the assortment of mobile devices provided by the organizers. The next championship—which features four categories, Junior, Freestyle, Original, and Teams Originals—will be on March 11, 2017.

5. AIR GUITAR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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You don’t have to be a musician, but you do have to look like one to stand a chance in the Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, Finland. During the 21st annual championships that were recently held from August 24 to 26, the winners of the National Air Guitar Championships in 10 countries competed on a bigger stage, in front of 8000 fans. This year, New Yorker Matt "Airistotle" Burns came out on top. “It’s a crazy thing to have your dreams come true,” he told The New York Post.

6. WORLD BOGSNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

The World Bogsnorkelling Championships take place every August at the Waen Rhydd peat bog in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Bogsnorkelling, or bog snorkeling, is a race in which participants run, swim, and fight their way through a trench that's located in a peat bog. While competitors don flippers and snorkels, they aren’t allowed to use normal swimming strokes. Read an account of the experience here.

7. WIFE CARRYING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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The Wife Carrying World Championship take place every summer in Sonkajärvi Finland. Each team consists of a man carrying a "wife." While the “wife” does not have to be his wife, or even a married woman, she must be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 108 pounds. (Otherwise, her partner is required to also carry weights.)

Participants in this race, measuring less than a mile, tackle obstacles—and are mandated by the rules to have fun. Winners are declared in the under 40 and 40-and-over categories, plus there are prizes for the best costumes, most entertaining couple, and strongest carrier. Then there’s the relay race, in which three men hand off one wife to each other.

8. WORLD CHAMPION SQUIRREL COOK OFF

Charlesjsharp via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Have a recipe for squirrel meat that you’re particularly proud of? You might want to enter next year's annual World Champion Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas. In the contest, two- or three-person teams have 2.5 hours to cook a main dish in which at least 80 percent of the meat is squirrel as well as a side dish. There are cash prizes for the best dishes, and proceeds help support several charities.

9. WORLD POOH STICKS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The annual World Pooh Sticks Championships—sponsored by the Rotary Club Oxford Spires—took place in June this year in Witney, Oxfordshire, UK. Not sure what's involved? Oh, bother.

Poohsticks, or Pooh Sticks, is a game from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne in which everyone drops a stick into a body of running water upstream from a bridge. Then, the participants race to the bridge to see whose stick emerges on the far side of the bridge first. The game is rather low on the competitive scale, but that only makes it easier for children of different ages to participate.

10. WORLD STONE SKIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS

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It takes a good arm and lots of practice to take the prize at the World Stone Skimming Championships at Easdale Island, Argyll, Scotland. Winners are decided on the length of the throw before the stone sinks. To be counted, each contender's stone must skip at least three times. The contest—which always takes place on the last Sunday in September—is limited to the first 350 people who register, because the contest must be completely finished before the last ferry leaves the island.

11. SWAMP SOCCER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Participants get down and dirty at the Swamp Soccer World Championships, where football is played in a swamp or bog. (It's similar to the American sport of mud wrestling.) While the sport originated in Finland, there are now swamp soccer leagues in several countries. The championship tournament takes place in Vuorisuo, Finland, every June.

12. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GURNING

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Every year on the third weekend in September, the Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria, England, hosts the World Championship Gurning, a competition where participants compete in “gurning” or "making faces.” You don’t need to pre-register, just show up and make your best face. Check out the 2015 competitors here.

13. WORLD CONKER CHAMPIONSHIPS

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Conkers is a British game in which two people tie horse chestnuts to a string and swing them at each other until one of the chestnuts breaks, leaving the other as the winner. The simple children’s game is elevated to serious status at the World Conker Championships in Southwick, Northamptonshire, UK. It’s always on the second Sunday in October (October 9 this year) and cost contenders about $13 to enter or about $5 to watch, which goes to charity.

14. WORLD TAXIDERMY & FISH CARVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Bob n' Renee via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fish carving isn't what you think it is. At least not at the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships. At the competition, which takes place in May every two years, participants show off their skills in taxidermy and fish carving, an art competition in which people carve images of fish from wood. In categories for both amateurs and professionals, taxidermists battle for $30,000 in cash awards, while carvers vie for over $3000.

The next World Show is set for May 16 to 20, 2017, in Peoria, Illinois.

15. HIDE AND SEEK (OR NASCONDINO) WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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Ready or not, here they come. On September 3 and 4, more than 60 teams of five battled it out in the 7th Annual Hide and Seek World Championships in Italian ghost town Consonno. But the competition doesn't exactly follow the rules you remember from childhood.

All of the 64 teams are split into four groups. During each round, all of the teams send a member to hide while a neutral searching team counts to 60 seconds. Then, each hidden member has 10 minutes to make it to a mattress placed in the middle of the field without being spotted by a finder. The first contender to make it to the mattress gets 16 points, the second person gets 15 points, and so on. If a participant doesn't make it there before the 10 minutes up, the team isn't awarded any points.

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Scandal! 12 Camels Were Disqualified from a Saudi Arabia Beauty Contest Over Botox Allegations
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Saudi Arabia’s central Riyadh Region has been roiled by an animal show scandal straight from a Christopher Guest film. As NPR reports, around a dozen camels were disqualified from a beauty contest at the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival because their handlers illegally plumped their features with Botox injections.

The month-long Camel Festival in Al Dhana, Saudi Arabia, runs through February 1, 2018, and features around 30,000 camels. The animals participate in races, an obedience competition, and a beauty contest. Nearly $57 million in prize money rides on these high-stakes events, and owners preen their prized steeds accordingly with massages, hairspray, and—as it turns out—banned cosmetic surgery procedures, according to The Telegraph.

Camels in the ungulate pageant are judged on whether they have long necks, enlarged lips and noses, a big head, and defined humps. The criteria evidently drove some owners to desperate measures: Shortly before the Camel Festival kicked off, officials discovered that a vet had been injecting some participating camels with botulism.

The vet is receiving heat, but he’s by no means the only competitor to use illegal tactics, according to United Arab Emirates-based newspaper The National. In addition to Botox injections and collagen fillers, some sneaky handlers darken their animals’ coats with oil, rely on hormone injections for enhanced muscularity, and stretch the camels' lips by hand to elongate their appearance. And while large facial features are considered desirable, large lobes aren’t, so the guilty vet’s humped charges also received ear reductions.

Officials can ban enhanced camels from entering future beauty competitions, and owners can face possible legal recourse for violating animal welfare laws. Some breeders have called for cheaters to face stronger punishments, like a fine, which is already applied to drug-enhanced racing camels. As for now, the 12 camels who went under the needle are now under the microscope.

[h/t NPR]

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LEGO Wants to Turn Your Space-Themed Design Into a New Set
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LEGO wants to turn your out-of-this-world brick design into a reality as part of a new contest calling for space exploration-themed concepts. The winning entry in the LEGO Moments in Space competition will be transformed into a real-life LEGO set that the company will give away as a promotional "gift with purchase" product.

As part of the contest, LEGO is inviting designers ages 13 and up to create what the company describes as “the ultimate space model." The design can be realistic or based on science fiction, as long as it follows a few important guidelines. The final assembled product must be made from around 300 basic pieces, and it can't be too big. It has to be able to fit on a 16-stud-by-16-stud LEGO baseplate inside one of the smaller LEGO boxes. The designs can feature stickers, but they have to be decals from old LEGO sets.

Participants can submit entries for the “LEGO Moments in Space” contest either in the form of digital renderings or photos of real-life projects through February 9, 2018. Fans can vote for the top 25 builds on the LEGO Ideas site, and then a special panel will select the grand-prize winner and 10 runner-ups. The results will be revealed to the public on March 2, 2018.

The winner will not only have the opportunity to see their design made into a real product in 2019, but will also receive a $250 online LEGO shopping spree and a curated collection of LEGO's previous "gift with purchase" sets. Get more information about entering the contest on the LEGO Ideas website.

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