Top Highland Games Competitors Respond to Douglas Edmunds

Saying that he saw the traditional Highland Games to be “about as exciting as watching paint dry,” Douglas Edmunds has thrown his considerable shoulder behind his latest focus in the strength world, something he calls the Highlander Games, which he sees as the “sexed up” version of the traditional Highland Games.

Taking issue with what he terms “the so-called traditionalists,” Edmunds asserted that his Highlander Games actually have ties to not just more interesting, but also deeper historical roots.

Leaving the question of historical accuracy in this area to others better equipped to sort the facts from the fiction, IronMind® turned to five top-tier Highland Games competitors, all of whom also have more than a passing familiarity with Douglas Edmunds’s place in the history of strength sports and his latest venture, the Highlander Games.  Simply, we asked each if he would be participating in Douglas Edmunds' upcoming Highlander Games and opened the door for comments.

Responding in no uncertain terms, one of those asked said that he “will not be attending the Doug Edmunds’ Highlander Games,” adding, “nor will I ever attend another event that Doug Edmunds is involved in.  In my opinion he has defaced the Highland Games with his recent comments in the Scottish papers bashing the [Highland Games] World Championships and David Webster in a personal vendetta.  His antics in the [the past] have been very unpopular to say the least, but his recent venture to boost his Highlander Games and bash the traditionalists, and in the process throw David Webster under a bus is uncalled for and must be addressed.”

IronMind® would quick add that without David Webster, OBE, a lot of iron game history would be lost and if ever a man has worked tirelessly to support the traditional Highland Games, that man is David Webster.  It seems to IronMind® almost as if one should have to pass a test before being allowed to criticize someone in David Webster’s position - this writer’s suspicion is that some of the people most actively tossing stones in David Webster’s direction wouldn’t be allowed to speak under these conditions.

Another top Highland Games competitor told IronMind®, “I respect Doug and Gregor for what they are doing to promote strength athletics and they have done good for the Games and for Scotland.  With that said, I really do enjoy the Scottish Highland Games as we know them today and I really enjoy competing in the Games that have made things the way they are.  Even though they are not highly promoted with TV, etc., there is still something about going to the Aboyne games or the Inverary Games and competing in locations where the Games have been going on for hundreds of years.  I think about the Games where the greats have competed (Bill Anderson, Grant Anderson, Hamish Davidson, Alistair Gunn, Francis Brebner, etc.) and I really enjoy those Games.”

“I am a big fan of the [Highlander] competition format,” said another athlete polled by IronMind®, “and have always enjoyed competing in both strongman and Highland Games.  Events like the Manhood Stones, Farmer's Walk, McGlashen Stone, etc. have a long history in Scotland of course, and any good caber tosser or weight thrower should do well in those competitions too.  The only downside I see is that while Highland Games athletes are subjected to mandatory drug testing throughout the season, strongmen competitors aren't. This can make for a very uneven playing field!  I'm not one to accuse everybody who beats me of being on drugs, and I enjoy competing with guys like Koklyaev, Wenta and Mark Felix, etc., but when you have to strip down and wrestle a WSM finalist you end up feeling like you brought a banana to a gun fight.”

IronMind would add that Douglas Edmunds has pointed to the absence of drug testing in his Highlander Games as being an advantage, while the traditional Highland Games contests are drug tested, so at least for the foreseeable future, the question of drug testing will be line in the sand, separating Edmunds’ Highlander Games and the traditional Highland Games.

Another world-class Highland Games competitor obviously was not cowed by Edmunds’ comment that his Highlander Games “isn’t some silly thing farmers do,” and Betz said to IronMind, “I am more like a farmer than a gladiator.”

“Silly farmers?” IronMind® would ask.  When we think of farmers, we think of people like Ben Plucknett, Richard Lupkes and Steve Justa, to name a few, and if we wanted to go back a few years, how about Bob Peoples or Wilbur Miller?  Are these guys silly farmers?  We think not.

“Upon reading the article about this year’s Highlander Championships I was very disappointed with Douglas Edmunds regarding the comments of the so-called traditionalists,” another Highland Games athlete told IronMind®, someone who calls Douglas “a dear friend.”

“To think this is where he and his son began competing, in traditional heavy events where both became very successful, and to say that the concept of the Highlander isn’t some silly thing farmers do such as throwing the heavy and light hammer, is to criticize the tradition of the sport where they both began.

“Traditional [Highland] Games have been around for centuries and thrive in every corner of the world, and they still pull a big gate attendance,” he added.  “And as for the mention of battle axes, mercenaries, jousting, combat, warrior-like tests and challenges, is this really sport or have anything to do with sports?  We are competing and talking about Traditional Highland Games here, not war.

“This Highlander concept theme is nothing new; I remember when Douglas was combining Highland Games and strongman events very successfully for the last 20 years or so, this was in part was for the strongmen competing to give them a chance as they were not throwers.

“I really do wish Douglas all the best with his Highlander, but let’s put an end to this internal strife that has been read in many of the tabloids of this past year, mostly against the [Highland Games] World Championship Homecoming 2009.  David Webster has done nothing but uphold and honor this great sport and does not deserve this.  Douglas with his Highlander Challenge should now work now on building the sport instead of dividing it and we should applaud the athletes for all their achievements as there is room for all in the sport of Highland Games, even this new theme of the Highlander Challenge which I don’t condone,” this athlete concluded.

This final thought is where IronMind® ends up, too: there is no need to consider this a zero-sum game, as there is plenty of room for both the traditional Highland Games and the Highlander concept, and there certainly is “no need cut off a man at the knees, to make oneself appear taller,” as a wise Scot once told me.  And as another prominent strength athlete told IronMind®, “Doug does have a knack for being inflammatory.  It's a shame because I don't want the Highlander concept to get a bad rap because of him.”

Captains of Crush® Hand Grippers

Captains of Crush grippers: the gold standard of grippers
The gold standard of grippers.

The fastest route to the strongest grip.

MILO®: Strength

Universal power broker

We deal in kilos and meters, pounds and feet.

Strong-Enough™ Lifting Straps

IronMind: Strong-Enough Lifting Straps: Most popular" at WSM. Proven daily by the world's strongest men.

Proven daily by the world's strongest men.

If you're not using IronMind lifting straps, you're not lifting as much as you could be.

Expand-Your-Hand Bands

Expand-Your-Hand Bands
Say goodbye to tennis elbow

Prevent, eliminate or reduce tennis elbow and associated pains. Simple, fun and effective.