From her appearance, you wouldn’t guess that the 82-year-old grandmother of seventeen is a fierce competitor in a cut-throat sport. But appearances can be deceiving. “I’ve got pointy sticks and I ain’t afeard to use ’em!” Indeed, Mable Edison has poked out more than one eye in her quest to retain her title as World Knitting Champion.
The annual championship matches, which take place every November in Dubuque, Iowa, draw thousands of determined competitors from around the world. “We have entries from as far away as Kazakhstan,” boasts Ross Jimanaken, executive director of the event. “These are serious contenders. They train just as hard as any Olympic athlete and they deserve all the respect that entails.”
From Jimanaken’s words and tone one can readily detect a hint of defensiveness concerning the event. This is understandable since many don’t accept competitive knitting as a real sport. Case in point: the International Olympic Committee has refused to include knitting even as a demonstration event in the Olympic Games.
While the IOC refused to comment for this article, other athletic organizations were more outspoken.
A representative of the WWE, itself often denigrated for its crass commercialization and staged competitions, spoke with Random Notions on the condition of anonymity. “Look, we all know that wrestling, at least the way we do it, isn’t a real sport. Sure, it’s intensely athletic. But a sport? No. And neither is this. These old gals just have to accept that. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make everything out of it they can. You know, maybe if they changed their names or wore skimpy costumes or something.”
Another anonymous contact, this one from the PGA, expressed similar views. “We’ve got men and women walking along, hitting a little ball with a club. What kind of sport is that? It’s all what you make of it. It’s the exclusivity, the elitism. Keep people out, exclude undesirables, and you get respect. Simple as that.”
Competitive knitting does have one thing in common with accepted sports: drug problems. Jimanaken admits, “Some of the contestants do sometimes bend the rules a little.” The rules he’s speaking of include prohibitions on, among other things, amphetamines and arthritis medications. The latter is particularly a problem when one considers that the average age of the top competitors is seventy nine.
“Look, I’m old,” says Anichka Czajkowski, the reigning Ukrainian champion. At 102, she’s the oldest competitor in the WKC, and one of the most feisty. “That bitch Edison, if she try to poke me with her needle again, I give her big fat lip. That what I do.”
Still, not all competitors are old ladies. Andrew Gaylord Farthington is only 29 and male. “Of courth I’m dithcriminated againtht,” lisps Farthington. “But I don’t mind. I’m ueth to it. Bethideth, no one can touth my knitted lingerie.”
While no one may be able to touch Farthington’s lingerie, it’s likely Edison will do her best to poke it.
Want to get in on this exciting and lucrative sport but don’t know a backstitch from a bobble? Check out Knitting: For Beginners! – The Ultimate Guide to Learn How to Knit & Start Creating Amazing Things (With Pictures!) from Amazon.