MM’s top five… niche sports

By Alex Bysouth

With the football and rugby season coming to a close it is usually time for Manchester ladies and gents to don their cricket whites or athletics spikes for the summer.

But for those who are feeling a little adventurous this pre-season, MM has put together a guide of niche sports that could see you discovering a talent you never knew you had.

5. Lawn Bowls

Generally considered the sport of our more elderly statesmen, lawn bowls enjoyed a brief period of popularity among younger competitor s following 2003 film Blackball.

The film portrayed a rebellious young player  banned from his local club and brandished the ‘bad boy of bowls’, before leading his country to Ashes success.

A decade on from Mel Smith’s screenplay, Bowls England are keen to encourage players from all sexes, ages and abilities.

With more than 20 clubs in the Greater Manchester area there is bound to be one on your doorstep.

“It takes just seconds to learn – and the rest of your bowling career to master,” claim Bowls England.

4. Fencing

Despite featuring in every Olympic Games since 1896, only the purists of you out there could name a fencing Olympian, or even a friend who participates in this ancient sport.

Great Britain’s last gold in any Olympic fencing event came more than 50 years ago, so if you fancy making history it’s time to reach for your foil, sabre and epee.

And where better to get started than who welcome beginners and even those competing in pentathlons.

3. Roller Hockey

For most of us access to ice is rare and hard to come by, but roller hockey offers a chance to pit your stick wit on a pair of quad skates.

The city is listed as having two roller hockey clubs competing in regional leagues, Manchester Roller Hockey Club and Moss Side RHC.

A quick and exciting game, Arcadia Leisure Centre offer public sessions to children and adults on Saturday afternoons where skates are available to hire.

2. Handball

Manchester Handball Club formed in 2003 with the ambition to provide a competitive sport for everyone which promotes cultural diversity.

Ten years later and they have developed into a club with men’s, women’s and even youth sections competing at a variety of levels.

A physical, fast-paced game, Team GB may have seen their funding in the sport cut, but handball remains a great game combining a multitude of skills.

1.Beard growing

The World Beard and Moustache Growing Championships have sprouted at an impressive rate from fairly humble beginnings in Höfen-Enz, Germany, more than two decades ago.

Now competitors from around the globe show off their splendid array of facial hair at the biennial event which has attracted hosts from Brighton to Las Vegas.

Why has this made it onto the list you ask? Well, asides from being perhaps the nichest of niche sports, Manchester produced an unsung legend of the international beard community.

Unfortunately the championships said goodbye to one of its oldest and longest-serving competitors when Alf Jarrald passed away last year.

A long-term member of the Handlebar Club in London, as an 83-year-old Alf became runner-up in the 2003 world championships in Nevada.

“We will miss his cheerful smile and remember him fondly,” said a World Beard Championships spokesman.

Image courtesy of ITNExtreme via YouTube, with thanks

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