Battle of the giants to start rural games

Otago Daily Times reporter Guy Williams interviews strongman Reuben de Jong. Photo by Stephen...
Otago Daily Times reporter Guy Williams interviews strongman Reuben de Jong. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

A transtasman battle of the giants will get the second annual New Zealand Rural Games off to a heavyweight start today.

The first event of the day is the Highland Games "Heavies'' competition, in which immensely strong men will compete in the caber toss, Atlas stones, farmer's walk, weight over bar and the gut-busting tractor pull.

Defending champion Reuben de Jong said the competition would be tougher than last year's, but his eye was on the "two-peat''.

The 206cm (6' 10''), 135kg Aucklander said he and his compatriots could be "rusty'', while their Australian counterparts already had some competitions under their belts.

He would keep a special eye on his mate and archrival Luke Reynolds.

"He's like the Australian version of me - he's the same height and build and he's got a big beard as well.''

Based at the Queenstown Recreation Ground, the two-day event will bring together 150 competitors from throughout the country and Australia for events such as speed-shearing, wood-chopping and coal-shovelling.

Games founder Steve Hollander said a change to free public entry and a "stunning'' weekend weather forecast could bring in 3000 people each day, twice last year's visitor numbers.

Today's schedule of events will be capped off by the "Running of the Wools'', starting at 4.30pm, when more than 400 merinos will be herded through the town centre from Camp St to Earnslaw Park.

● The "Heavies'' competition runs from 9.30am to noon.

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