Hey, it may not be an Olympic sport, but the Wife Carrying Competition is hilarious to watch and a real bonding experience for all involved.
The sport of wife carrying is basically an obstacle course race… with a twist.
The name is pretty self-explanatory, but in order to compete, a man carries a woman through an obstacle course. The couple to complete the course in the shortest time are the winners. Pretty simple so far.
The official Finnish track is made of sand and is 253.5 meters long, including 2 dry obstacles (log hurdles) and 1 water obstacle (a chest-deep pool).
Preliminary races and qualifiers are run in heats.
The championship is held every July in Sonkajärvi, Finland, with teams travelling from all over the world to compete. The competition has turned into a multi-day event with markets, music, karaoke, dancing and general fun shenanigans.
A team competition can also be entered which acts more like a relay, with one woman being handed off between three men. There is also a seniors race for participants over 40.
How it started
Finland is the brain-child behind this one, and despite its disturbing origin story it’s still widely celebrated and practiced in Finland and beyond as a serious sport. Legend tells us that the tradition of wife-carrying was inspired by the act of stealing goods and women from neighboring villages, and the belief that once a wife was stolen she would become your own.
Hmm (that’s us shaking our heads in disapproval).
Obviously these rules don’t apply to the modern adaptation, and we’re assuming its strange origins aren’t top of mind for modern enthusiasts.
Wife-carrying is now practiced in many countries throughout Europe and North America, with the end goal being to earn your way to the big leagues in Finland.
- Despite the name, the woman carried doesn’t in fact need to be a wife, as long as she’s at least 17 years old and at least 49 kg in weight
- If she weighs less than 49kg, an additional bag must be carried to reach the minimum weight limit
- The carrier is allowed to wear a belt which the woman can utilize to hold on to
- No other equipment can be worn that helps the woman hold on
- Obviously, the woman must be carried
- If she’s dropped, she must be picked back up and the race is resumed
- The team with the fastest time wins the women’s weight in beer
- Additional prizes are given out as well for best costume, strongest carrier and most entertaining couple
- Oh, and everyone must have fun, that’s apparently very important
The way you choose to carry your wife is really up to you, but here are the most popular methods:
The woman is right-side-up, on the man’s back with her legs wrapped around his waist and arms around his neck.
Inverse Backpack aka Estonian Method
The preferred method for most runners as it’s believed to be the most effective; the woman is carried in an inverse piggyback with her legs around his shoulders and arms around his waist. Good for running, but tricky during the water hurdle.
Two Shoulder Hold
Similar to the Estonian method, but mush less discombobulating for the woman.
Not great for running, not great for arm endurance, not great in general.
Records and legends
The sport is said to be inspired by a legendary Finnish thief named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or “Ronkainen the Robber”.
The current victors for 2016 are a couple from Russia, beating out wife-carrying legend Taisto Miettinen, who despite coming in second place this year has dominated the sport for the past 7 years.
Think it’s got a shot at being included in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020?
Find out more about this weird sport and how you can become a professional wife carrier on their official website.