The Washington Post

Sheep shearing an Olympic sport? New Zealand farmers hope so

Beach volleyball. BMX. Table tennis. Tug of war. Trampoline.

Supervisor of interpreters Alex Tillen shears a sheep during Wool Days at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Va., on April 20, 2011. (Pat Jarrett/AP)

Imagine making the case for trampoline to be added to the Olympics back in 2000: “Yes, it’s like gymnastics mixed with diving, except you’re bouncing off a trampoline and somersaulting through the air. It’s a classic discipline.”

But that campaign had to start somewhere, which must be the motivating factor behind the New Zealand Federated Farmers, who on Monday proposed making sheep shearing the next Olympic sport.

The “time has come to elevate shearing’s sporting status to the ultimate world stage,” the group said in a statement.

With New Zealand hosting the world shearing championships in March, Federated Farmers Mean and Fiber chairwoman Jeannette Maxwell believes it’s time to strike while the clippers are hot.

“I can testify to the physical effort shearing takes,” Maxwell said. “(Top shearers) are athletes who can take it to another level.”

Maxwell proposed making shearing a demonstration sport at the Commonwealth Games as a first step, but even that seems far-fetched based on the sport’s regional interest. Global participation is required for the International Olympic Committee to allow a sport to crack the program — a limitation that resulted in baseball and softball being bumped for 2012 and 2016.

The countries who regularly compete in the shearing championships — New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa — make up a core contingent of the nations who dominate rugby, which was last seen at the Olympics in 1924. (Rugby sevens will be included in 2016).

But if endurance helps make a sport, shearing should earn some points. The competition lasts eight-hours, where the top shearers clip up to 700 sheep. Ireland’s Ivan Scott owns the world record after shearing 749 lambs. Now whether that would make for good television is an entirely different discussion.

For now, at least, fans of the sport will need to get their shearing fix at the world championships. But never say never. Curling had to wait 78 years to get back in the mix, and suddenly everyone is watching it.

(*In case you missed it, tug of war is the sport no longer included in the summer games. It lasted from 1900-1920.)

2012 London Olympics coverage from Washington Post Sports:

London Olympic ticket resale site to re-open for sales only

Heavy Medal: Three locals ready for Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck

Heavy Medal: Five U.S. women’s gymnasts to be chose at June trials

Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters