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Supplement to “Different Sorts of Sports”

Whether slamming a table tennis ball at 100 miles per hour, racing on horseback around barrels, or hauling a 12,000-pound sled, Kentucky’s athletes—human and equine—participate in some pretty unusual sports.

Far from a plunka-plunka game of ping-pong, Olympic table tennis combines quick thinking, fast reflexes, and strength. Kentucky’s highest-ranked player, Arjun Shankaren, 25, is among the top 6 percent in the U.S.

“To get proficient,” he says, “you should play at least two hours a day. Apart from the table, you have to do physical training, weight training, and mental training.”

Fredonia’s 17-year-old Jodie Bennett also trains daily to barrel race and pole bend in Kentucky High School Rodeo Association events. From a rodeo family, she first ran barrels at age 5 and now works summers to support her “habit.”

“I love the adrenalin rush of barrels,” she says between events at the Kentucky Invitational High School Rodeo in May at the Kentucky Horse Park. “And everybody cheers each other on. The sportsmanship’s better than in other sports.”

That’s also true of horse pulling competitions, where handlers—big men with exceptional upper body strength—sometimes help each other drive massively muscled draft horse teams.

“You have to train your team six or seven days a week,” says Versailles resident James Humphrey, who learned pulling from his dad. “It gets their muscles hard as bullets.”

Through the years, the Humphreys have won the Kentucky state championships, the nationals, and the world title.

“It’s not about the money,” says handler Terry Jacobs of Williamstown, who’s been competing for five years. “It’s about bragging rights. My wife thinks I’m nuts!”

Horse Pulling

Kentucky High School Rodeo Association
(270) 965-5856, Dusty Shelley, KYHSRA, e-mail at

Table Tennis
(859) 588-5773, Dr. David Ferguson, Lexington Table Tennis Club

To read the Kentucky Living August 2005 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Different Sorts of Sports

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