The annual Wife Carrying World Championships are held each July in Finland. It all began in the small Finnish town of Sonkajärvi back in 1992, but the origins of this bizarre sport can be traced back to the 1800s.
The history of Wife Carrying is based on the 19th-century legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or “Ronkainen the Robber”. There are three different stories as to how the sport was invented.
According to the first story, Ronkainen the Robber and the members of his gang were accused of stealing food and women from villages in their area throwing the women over their shoulders as they ran off.
According to the second story of how the sport of Wife-Carrying was invented, it has been said that Ronkainen the Robber and his gang would go to the villages near their own and steal other men’s wives and then have the women become their own wives. Ronkainen the Robber and the members of his gang would carry the women on their backs as they ran off.
In the last version of the story, it is said that Ronkainen the Robber trained his thieves by carrying heavy sacks on their backs in order to make them stronger. Eventually, his training sessions evolved into a sport.
The first modern day wife carrying event was held in Sonkajärvi, Finland, in 1992, but foreign contestants were not admitted until 1995. Since then, every year in July people from many different countries participate in the annual Wife Carrying World Championships held in Sonkajärvi.
The modern race draws around 50 husband-and-wife teams that race with the husband carrying the wife through a regulation length obstacle course featuring log hurdles, sand traps, and a water obstacle.
There are several types of carrying techniques that can be practiced: piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder), or the most common of them all, Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist).
The rules are set by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee and according to the rules, all participants must enjoy themselves.
No worries if you are not married because you don’t have to be married to participate in the Wife Carrying World Championships. Rules state that a participant may carry his own wife, his neighbor’s wife or someone he found “further afield”.
The wife must be more than 17 years of age and weigh a minimum of 49 kg (108 pounds). If the wife weighs less than 49 kg, she will be burdened with a rucksack containing additional weight to bring the total load to be carried up to 49 kg.
The length of the official track is 253.5 meters (831 feet) and the track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle about one meter deep. The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier and a helmet worn by the carried.
The winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time. The current world record is 55.5 seconds to complete the 253.5-meter track.
The couple who completes the course in the shortest time wins the equivalent of the wife’s weight in beer.
Contestants come from all over the world to compete in front of almost 10,000 spectators, but the results show that the competition is mostly a duel between the Finns and the Estonians.
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However, last year Dimitriy Sagal and Anastasia Loginova from Russia stopped the domination of the Finns and the Estonians, by becoming the World Champions of the annual Wife Carrying World Championships held in Sonkajärvi, Finland.