Times have changed at the Nelson A & P Show with women venturing from the traditional baking competitions and equestrian events and muscling into the last bastions of manhood of woodchopping and strongman competitions.
The Taylors Cars Strongman Challenge and woodchopping were two of the biggest attractions at the Golden Edge-sponsored show held at Richmond Park on Saturday and Sunday. And one of the things that helped make these events even more interesting than usual was the number of top female athletes lining up alongside the men.
“I do it for fun,” defending Strongman champion, Louise Kelly of Nelson, says. “I helped run the event two years ago and when it opened up to women last year I thought it would be fun to have a go at it.”
“I’m not that big, I’m only 69kg, but it’s technique as well as strength, so I hold my own.”
Although Louise couldn’t repeat her championship-winning feats of last year, she did take out the truck pull against her much bigger rivals. World record-breaking weightlifter Kate Mitchell-Parker of Auckland won the women’s event while Conner Moeke of Palmerston North edged out Nelson’s Ben Smith in the men’s competition.
Event promoter Luke Slotemaker says the standard of competition had improved massively this year with the athletes lifting and pulling thousands of kilograms in eight events over two days.
He says athletes the calibre of Kate would win strongman competitions anywhere in the world, showing that the Nelson competition was getting “bigger and better” each year.
The woodchopping also featured the fairer sex with Nelson’s Ashleigh Radford, 18, sharpening axes alongside Nelson’s world champion Adam Lowe and hardened Richmond veteran Ray Biggs.
“I saw it at the A & P Show when I was younger and thought this is cool,” Ashleigh says. “I also wanted to do something that wasn’t pony club.”
And Ray, who has been woodchopping for 26 years, says that’s one of the appeals of the sport. “Anyone can do it. It’s handicapped, so you get 14 and 15-year olds chopping against world champions and someone in their 80s. There’s always great camaraderie too – that’s why I keep doing it.”
The show enjoyed magnificent weather over the weekend with secretary Annette Robinson saying they had bigger crowds than last year.
“Saturday was well up on last year and we had a constant stream of people on Sunday, although it was not a big as Saturday because there were so many other events on,” Annette says.
“There was a really friendly atmosphere and the weather was perfect – it was a wonderful show.”