Australian wins world Santa competition

An extract from :_
The Daily Telegraph Newspaper, Sydney
Article from: AAP - November 26, 2007

An Australian man has won the world Santa Claus championships in Sweden by impressing the judges with his chimney climbing skills and gentle nature with children.

Perth's Dave Downey beat off 30 other contestants from around the world to take out the gold medal at the Snoyran Santa Games in Gallivare.

"Three years in training to be a Santa and now it's all paid off," the new Father Christmas told the Ten Network.

Prospective Santas tried not to trip over their beards as they battled it out in five sports: chimney climbing, reindeer racing, kick sled racing, porridge eating and Santa's Christmas Eve.

Asked how he practices, Mr Downey replied: "Kangaroos, sheep, porridge eating, of course, the usual Santa activities. It's just a bit harder in the heat that's all."

But Santa Games official secretary Elisabeth Landby said that after three years of competing, Mr Downey had grown into the role of Santa and had the style judges were looking for.

"He was in third place during most of the time during the competition, but he impressed the judges during the chimney climbing and jumped to first place," Ms Landby said.

"He was popular among the children ... the children thought he was a good Santa."

As well as the title of top Santa, Mr Downey wins a gold medal, a diploma and a hand-made sculpture of Santa.