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British triumph at toe wrestling

Athlete's foot: Peter
Athlete's foot: Peter "the lone toe" competes in last year's tournament.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British contenders fought off competition from around the world to be crowned World Toe-Wrestling Champions.

Dozens of hopefuls -- including 32 men and 32 women -- from America, Australia and Canada locked toes at Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn, Wetton, Staffordshire for the event (slogan "there's no 'arm in it").

Competitors had to force over an opponent's foot on a "toe-dium" in the best of three "toe-downs." If a competitor is in too much pain he can give in by calling out the words "Toe Much."

Natalie Cartwright, of Cheshire, took the women's title and Paul Beech, of Staffordshire, won the men's competition.

Landlord Brian Rowbothan said: "We had over 100 competitors including some Australians, Canadians and Germans. But to be honest the foreigners weren't very good, none of them got past the first round."

Organizer Brian Rowbotham told CNN both had what it takes to stamp on the opposition: "Big Feet!"

"You also need lots of determination," he said.

The sport, which resembles arm wrestling, was dreamt up in the 1970s by the landlord of Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn.

Legend has it the championships were abandoned after a Canadian tourist took the title in 1977, destroying the sport's founding principle as an activity at which the English could excel.

Publican George Burgess resurrected the game in 1994 after finding the rule board and told the UK's Press Association: "After 10 years the championship is still going strong."

He added: "It's all down to perseverance, ankle strength and having a `toe-riffic' sense of humor."

According to the championship's Web site -- www.worldtoewrestling.org -- no steroids or other artificial stimulants are permitted, apart from tobacco and alcohol.

The sport's popularity has spread worldwide, despite the disappointment of being turned down as an Olympic exhibition sport.

Donations and sponsorship from the competition, which is backed by ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's, will go to the Derby Children's Friendship Group.


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