Gloucestershire Cheese Rollers Race Downhill, Despite Ban (PHOTOS)

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CHEESEROLL
Would you hurl yourself down a hill for a piece of cheese? That's what these athletes are doing in Gloucester, England's legendary cheese rolling competition. | Tim Ireland, PA / AP
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The cheese stands alone -- until a group of daredevils hurl themselves down a muddy hill in hopes of catching it.

About a dozen of risk takers gathered in Gloucestershire, England, on Sunday to try their luck at the traditional, yet surprisingly controversial, English sport of cheese rolling.

The historic game is a local custom that brings fearless competitors to the top of the shockingly steep Cooper's Hill to chase, or in many cases tumble, after rolling wheels of double Gloucester cheese.

Since it was first documented in 1826, the annual tradition has transformed into an international event with growing crowds, growing numbers of injuries and growing insurance premiums.

Those factors motivated officials to make the controversial decision to cancel the event last year and this year.

But they haven't stopped diehards from taking to the hill in unofficial races in 2010 and 2011.

SEE AMAZING PHOTOS OF CHEESE-ROLLING ACTION:

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Ignoring a disclaimer posted on the website cheese-rolling.co.uk that warned would-be participants that this year's "Unofficial Event" presented a "possible severe threat to public safety," competitors still somersaulted down the cliff-like slope in pursuit of glory and cheese.

Without insurance, safety fences, "catchers" at the bottom of the hill to stop out of control runners, or any assurance the course had been cleared of undergrowth, nettles and brambles, a smaller than usual field of competitors took part.

But that didn't make victory any less delicious, reigning champ and local favorite Chris Anderson told ThisIsGloucesterShire.co.uk.

"There was a great atmosphere and most of the crowd were local, too. It's back to what it should be."

Anderson, 23, won all three men's races at this year's event, while 14-year-old Jo Guest claimed the cheese in the women's race.

The official cancellations this year and last year have been unpopular among lovers of the game, but they aren't the first time the Gloucestershire cheese rolling event has been called off. Organizers nixed the competition in 1998 after 33 people were injured the previous year, according author Michael Teitelbaum's book "Weird Sports."

Medics at the last official event in 2009 tallied 18 injuries -- including 10 wounded spectators, The Daily Mail reports. There were no reported casualties at this year's contest.

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