Eirik Bjorno Staff Writer
The series “Sports You Did Not Know Existed” has finally reached my favorite of all unusual sports: Wife Carrying. Most of you would probably believe I am joking, but a few of you will look at this as an opportunity to take your hobby to a competitive level.
Men are often portrayed as more masculine and stronger than women…at least that’s the stereotype. We want to lift things all the time. We want to move the big tractor wheel in the back yard, and we love to help the old neighbor with the groceries even though she is more than capable of doing it herself. We lift everything we come across, and what do we do when we don’t have any thing to lift? Well, we start to carry our kids or even our wife. We carry them into bed, and carry the bride over the threshold when we get married. It is tradition and it is accepted. In Finland, the need to carry your wife has turned into a competitive, semi-professional sport. Sound crazy? Well, yes it is.
The objective is simple: the male carries the female around a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee (yes there is such a thing) has set only a few guidelines for all official wife carrying competitions. The most important guidelines state that the track needs to include two dry obstacles and a water obstacle, and the participants need to have their own insurance.
There are no set rules on how the male needs to carry the female, just that the woman cannot touch the ground throughout the course. If the husband drops the wife, he is given a 15 second penalty, and unfortunately this happens all the time. That is why a helmet is required for all females in the competition. Piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder) and Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist) are the most popular ways for the husband to get her wife over the obstacles, and the best carriers often have well-developed strategies for what style is the best for the upcoming event.
Estonian-style is named after the country that has won the last 11 consecutive World Championships in the beginning of this millennium. The last few years we have seen a change in the hierarchy. Finland has taken over the throne as Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen have won the last four years. Are they married? Surprisingly not. There are no rules stating you have to be married, or in any way related to the women you are carrying, but you do need a written consent.
It is not only the Baltic and north European countries who are strong wife carrying nations. Australia, Hong Kong and India are all nations who have their own national championships every year. The North American Wife Carrying Championships take place every year on Columbus Day Weekend in October at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine. You can sign up when you arrive.
There is no official wife carrying occurring in New York, but if you want to compete among the best in Sonkajärvi, Finland, the competition is open for everybody. The price to participate is 50 Euros and the World Champions take home the wife’s weight in beer. Tempting for many redneck Americans.
If you do decide to book your tickets to Finland to participate in this year’s World Championships, make sure you prepare. Pick your partner up and carry her around as much as possible, up and down the stairs, to the supermarket and while walking the dog. Just make sure you tell your neighbors before you begin carrying a woman around, especially if it’s not your wife…