The gathering of reindeer herders from across the Arctic, China and Mongolia for the 5th World Reindeer Herders’ Congress here in China has also allowed for a unique sports competition to take place – the World Lasso Championship.
Held every four years, delegates from reindeer herding regions are allowed to compete against each other to claim the title until the next Congress.
The lasso is a long piece of rope with a sort of figure of eight piece attached to the end of it – which allows a long noose to be created. It is used by reindeer herders on a regular basis to catch moving reindeer.
For the purposes of the competition, however, the target is a red spike several metres away.
The rules are simple: each competitor must be able to catch the red spike with a lasso four times, whilst moving progressively farther from the spike after each hit. The men have slightly longer distances to throw than the women. Competitors are timed from the moment of their first throw until they have been able to catch the fourth spike.
Being a new spectator to the sport, I can’t say I noticed all the intricacies and techniques on how to throw the lasso and get a winning time.
But there clearly were some different techniques at play here – some favoured overhanded throws, which others favoured side-handed. Some lassos were made of leather (seemed to be favoured by some of the Russian regional delegates), whilst others were made of plastic (a favourite of the Saami).
The best times seemed to be generated by those competitors who were consistently accurate at catching the spike, but also fast at coiling the rope. The fastest time logged was 1 minute 6 seconds!!
All photographs © Björn Alfthan.