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Lightning Ridge Rickshaw Challenge

Mark King has shoveled his way to victory yet again, winning the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival Miner’s Rickshaw Challenge for the seventh year.

Mark is an operator at Mt Thorley Warkworth and in his spare time likes to try his hand at opal mining. The first time he headed out to Lightning Ridge to mine opals was in 1997, and he has been going back a couple times a year ever since.

It was on these visits that he began to get involved in the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival, a popular annual event that attracts thousands of people to the historic opal town.

“I have been involved in many of the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival events over the years,

“It’s a really great weekend and I love getting out to the area. For the last few years, I’ve also been helping the festival committee.”

One of the most anticipated events of the festival is the Rickshaw Challenge. With a $7000 prize pool, the gruelling event attracts entrants from all over NSW.

It begins with participants holding jackhammers aloft with outstretched arms for a pre-determined period then sprinting about 50 metres to a large heap of opal tailings while pushing a miner’s wheelbarrow which is called a rickshaw.

Every participant then shovels opal dirt into the rickshaw and races back to the opposite end of the course where they maneuver the dirt into a 44-gallon drum.

Once the drum is full to the top, the contestant’s time is taken by a timekeeper. Filling the drum may take three or more trips back to the opal dirt pile.

Mark began competing in the original event in 2013 and then in 2017 the event was changed to its current format. Since then, he’s beaten off all the newcomers, taking home the win year after year. He credits his success to his training regime.

Lightning Ridge Rickshaw Challenge

“Around Christmas time I step up the training in preparation for the event. Lots of running, bike riding and weights, though mostly I focus on cardio endurance. You see some of the guys come along built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they tend to go too hard and blow themselves out quickly.

“There’s a bit of technique involved. Some people make rookie mistakes like not filling their barrel right up to the top and they come undone. Though mostly it all comes down to your breathing and keeping a steady pace. You must be fit if you want any chance of winning.”

This year the event was extra special for Mark as his daughter, Taylah, competed in the women’s event for the first time. She came in a respectable 4th place on her first attempt and is already planning to return next year and have another crack at the win.

As for Mark, he said he’ll be back again to defend his title.

“When I get asked when I will retire, my reply is, ‘when someone beats me’!”

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