Reality and Royal London lift the trophies in Cardiff

Nathalie Towner reports from the 2002 Computastars UK final

Nathalie Towner reports from the 2002 Computastars UK final

The Commonwealth Games was pushed out of the limelight on 27 July as sports fans from the IT industry turned their attention to Cardiff and the the 2002 Computastars UK Final, where nearly 50 teams of IT professionals did battle in the Cardiff athletics stadium.

The first event of the day was crolo, a hybrid of polo and croquet. Competitors on piggy back staggered around the course waving mallets and trying to whack a ball through a series of hoops. The Computer Weekly team were particularly hopeless, with deputy news editor Nick Huber wheezing under the weight of management editor Ross Bentley.

However, the IT journalists were not the only ones struggling. The two men and two women of the Misys team turned up nursing impressive hangovers from the company's summer party the night before. Not to be outdone, the Cap Gemini team were also seen to be sporting a beer-induced handicap.

But Gordon Cairns, the man behind Computastars, was not going to make it easy for anyone, and the medicine ball throwing event carried some tough penalties. If the thrower or the catcher jumped off the stool before the ball had been caught they had to go back to the start. "Perhaps we shouldn't have included intelligence in this one," muses Cairns, after watching some teams spend more time going backwards than forwards.

In the next event Keith Holt from the Halifax team was keen to show off his hockey dribbling skills but was undone when he broke his stick in two trying to smack the ball through the back of the net. Fellow contestant Hilary Barber also paid the price of trying too hard, after falling head first into the water jump in a misguided attempt to practice for the steeplechase.

The over and under event, where competitors had to alternate going over and under hurdles for a minute, saw many contestants collapse in near exhaustion. "If you came up too quickly you got your back caught and that hurt," says Stephen Reid, project leader at Halifax, which had four teams competing.

"There is a core of us who come every year," says Reid. "We have got five corporate sites, so this is an opportunity to meet people from all over the company, including the Birmingham Midshires teams, which are also part of our group. We see this as a real team-building exercise and most of us are staying in Cardiff tonight and will be going out for a few beers."

Telewest Broadband also had four teams in the final. "Our teams have come from all over, we have travelled from Yorkshire but other team members have come from Knowsley, Crawley, Newcastle, Plymouth and Woking," explains team organiser Mina Mistry.

In the afternoon there was a surprise event for the team champions that sapped them of any energy they may have recovered during the lunch break. They had to run back and forth between the hurdles as many times as possible in 75 seconds.

"This event is to help them loosen their legs for the steeplechase," says Cairns with a wink.

As usual, the scooter relay prompted debate on what was the best technique to use. However, the question became irrelevant for the team that suffered a flat tyre - they had to pick up their scooter and carry it over the finish line. But this is all part of Computastars.

"It is about teamwork and fitness, and if these don't work you use intelligence," explains Cairns.

Liberata, a team local to Cardiff, was rather more circumspect."Our philosophy is commitment rather than ability," says team member James Wills.

The women's competition was won by Reality, with the men's title going to Royal London, which won by an impressive margin of 65 points. The individual titles were won by Carla Hussey of Volt Europe and Ian Salisbury of Royal London.

Ultimately though, everyone comes along to have a good time. Emma Roberts from Answer Solutions, another Cardiff company, says, "It is just a good fun day out, we always have a good laugh."

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