Published at Time magazine.
Basque rural sports find their roots in the everyday lives of rural communities, emerging from traditional occupations and reflecting the unique lifestyle of the Basque people. Among the 18 official sports and approximately 20 additional variations, I find myself drawn to "The Origins of Sport." Watching these men and women in action, one can easily envision how an evening's amusement could evolve into a cherished tradition.
In this series, I place particular emphasis on the "training spaces," which possess an almost clandestine aura in contrast to the grandeur of the official Olympic games. They train in garages, forests, and public spaces, lending a distinct character to their endeavors.
These practices mirror the identity of a people, encompassing games that range from endangered rarities to widely embraced favorites. The winners are honored with a Basque beret, known as a "txapela," signifying their championship in the Basque language.
Among the sports are stone lifting, wood chopping, bale lifting, tug-of-war, sack carrying, bowls, and the impressive feat of oxen stone-dragging.
For a month while living serendipitously in the French Basque Country, I found myself drawn to the realm of "rural sports" or "land sports." I encountered champions of stone lifting who trained in a modest garage. What struck me was the fact that one of them was a nurse. These aren't the kind of sports typically shielded by Olympic federation grants.
I came to realize that the transmission of these sports, deeply rooted in the tradition and identity of the Basque people, is fueled by love: the love for fathers who sometimes engage in them, and the love and pride for their culture.