Highlands & Islands

Bike shinty polo event launched in Kingussie

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Media captionShinty bicycle polo has been dreamt up by the organisers of Bikefest Scotland

A completely new sport is about to emerge from deep within the Cairngorms National Park. BBC Scotland reporter Craig Anderson went to Kingussie to find out more.

Shinty bicycle polo has been dreamt up by the organisers of Bikefest Scotland, a cycling festival taking place this weekend in and around the village of Kingussie.

Those behind this strange hybrid reckoned that because virtually every child in the Badenoch area was born with a shinty caman in their hand and most youngsters owned a bike, marrying the two would create an intriguing new challenge.

And so it does, according to Iona Malcolm, one of the festival organisers.

She said: "You can't stop immediately and if you need to turn around you need to wheel right around before you can come back to the ball.

"And before you get there somebody's got it from you."

Two teams of junior shinty players will battle it out on Saturday in the first match ever staged of five-a-side shinty bicycle polo.

The players have had the benefit of only one training session this week to prepare for the event.

Most were eventually able to combine the skills of pedalling, steering the handlebars and striking the ball.

"They're doing pretty well given this is the first time we've ever done this but they all seem naturals at it," said Iona.

As with standard shinty there is plenty of mostly good-natured physical contact and so all players take the precaution of wearing helmets.

"It's just a brilliant opportunity to mix two sports and you can see it for yourself, the kids are having a great time," said Bob Kinnaird, another of the Bikefest organisers and director of Sportscotland's outdoor training centre at Glenmore Lodge nearby.

"Braking properly is the real problem for the players because they are carrying the shinty stick in one hand and so can only use the brakes on one wheel."

Beach volleyball

Other attractions at this weekend's cycling festival include bike suppliers' stands, a bike trail through the forest with plenty of bumps and berms for those who like rough terrain and a giant airbag which allows bmx riders to pull off their most dangerous stunts and still have a soft landing.

Sunday will also see the annual Scottish Bikeathon, a 26-mile charity fundraiser.

Bob said: "It's a weekend of celebrations of cycling - all types of cycling - and it's for everybody, whether they're experienced riders or whether they've never seen bicycles before, there will be something for people to do."

And if shinty bicycle polo takes off, it could rival beach volleyball as the next unlikely Olympic sport.

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