A traditional sport in Finland where the World Wife Carrying Championships are held annually in a town by the name of Sonkajärvi. The rules are reasonably simple: carry your wife, life partner or even a neighbour or friend's wife as you run to complete an obstacle course in the shortest time.

In typical Finnish style (they also host the annual World Air Guitar Championships) the sport is marked by a strange combination of light hearted fun and deadly serious competitiveness.

The idea of Wife Carrying originated in the 19th century when a robber in the Lakeland district of Finland named Rosvo-Ronkainen would set would-be gang members a challenge of completing an obstacle course. The practice of stealing women from neighbouring villages was also common in that time and thus a tradition was born.

The modern version of the sport is regulated by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Commitee who, in 2002, introduced the following rules:

  • The length of the official track is 253,5 meters, and the surface of the track is partially sand, partially grass and partially asphalt
  • The track has two dry obstacles and one about one meter deep water obstacle
  • The wife to be carried can be your own, the neighbour's or you may have found her farther afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age
  • The minimun weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilos. It it is less than 49 kilos, the wife will be burdened with such a heavy rucksack that the total weight to be carried is 49 kilos
  • All the participants must have fun
  • The winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time
  • If a contestant drops his wife that couple will be fined 15 seconds per drop
  • The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier
  • The contestants run the track two at a time, so each heat is a contest in itself
  • The contestants have to pay attention to the instructions given by the organisers of the competition

There are no rules that specify how the wife should be carried and various techniques are employed. These include the piggy back, the firemen's carry and the all-powerful Estonian carry, developed by Margo Uusorg and Birgit Ulricht. This technique has the woman upside down with arms wrapped around the man's waist and her legs draped over his shoulders and is proving to be unbeatable as it frees the man's arms for negotiating the obstacles.

The 2002 Championships were won by an Estonian couple, Meelis Tammre and Anna Zilberberg in a time of 1 minute, 4 seconds. Annually the top prize is the female champion's weight in beer - in this case Zilberberg's 49 kilograms.


references:
http://www.sonkajarvi.fi/ylasavo/sonkajarvi/sonkajarvi.nsf
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/theme/festivals/festivals_wife.htm

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