The sound of bagpipes and heaving grunts filled the air Saturday as athletes hurled stones, hammers and trees to find out who is the ultimate Scot.
The first Saskatoon Highland Games brought Scottish heavy sports, music and dancing and food to Diefebaker Park.
But it wasn’t just men who wore the kilts. Megan Melham was one of two women among the 16 competitors. Melham, 28, started competing five years ago when a co-worker introduced her to Saskatoon’s team. She said what made her stay was the community.
“You’re still competitive, and competing against them, but it’s more about competing against yourself,” she said. “I found that people are a lot more willing to go ‘hey, you should try this’ and if you get a personal record off it or you throw further, everybody is happy for you.”
Melham has since traveled across Canada and the United States to compete in various games. Each tournament consists of several events, but most have the standard stone, hammer, sheaf and weight throws, throwing a weight over a bar, and the iconic caber toss, which involves attempting to throw and flip a large pine pole.
In Saskatoon, athletes competed in nine of the standard events.
Unlike track and field, athletes can’t only compete in sports they think they are good at, so being a diverse athlete is key, Melham said.
“It doesn’t matter if you were 10 feet ahead of the next guy or not, next event comes and it starts over again and everyone is vying for position and if you’re really good at the stones but really suck at the weights, that’s going to hurt you,” she said.
The games were originally a means to boost moral and bragging rights among Scottish military troops and over time became a gathering of clans and celebration of culture.
Highland Games have long been a part of many western Canadian cities. Games coordinator Jesse Cann felt it was time to bring them to the bridge city.
“We’re just individuals that like to throw things,” he said with a laugh.
Melham said in the summer she trains in the field two to three times a week and in the gym at least twice. Saskatoon doesn’t have an indoor throwing facility so in the winter, she builds up her strength five days a week.
“I know a lot of women think that if you lift heavier you get bigger. I’ve actually gotten smaller as I lift heavier weights because it’s changing my body composition,” Melham said, adding she wished more women would get into heavier lifting.
“I will never say in my life I wish I was weaker.”