Since 1992 Sonkajärvi has hosted this remarkable sporting event. The first four years of the competition were a purely national affair, but word spread quickly and soon it became an international phenomenon attracting couples from around the world. Although the competition is one noted for the good humour of both contestants and spectators alike, it has deep roots in local history of a more serious time. In the late 19th century Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, a brigand and a thief, was reputed to only accept men into his company who could complete a challenging track while carrying a woman, possibly stolen from a nearby village. There is no current necessity for stealing a woman, in fact all the female entrants are there of their own volition – though perhaps some think better of it once they’ve completed the course.
2012 will see the competition held for the 21st time, the 17th time as World Championships, and its success and popularity can be seen by the number of countries now holding qualifying rounds due to the numbers of couples who wish to participate. In 2011 there were contestants from Australia, Britain, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Lithuania, Poland and USA competing against the Finns, with couples of four different nationalities taking the first five spots.
In addition to the main competition, there is also a team event, where three different men carry one wife in what can be considered a relay race – at the handover point the carrier must drink the official ‘wife carrying drink’ before setting off. Prizes in this category are also awarded to the team with the best costume. There is also a sprint competition, where the track is a mere 100 metres of sand and gravel with one water obstacle, a metre deep.
The track has been altered to match the modern conditions and the rules are as follows;
- The length of the official track is 253.5 metres. Its surface is partially sand, grass and asphalt
- The track has two dry obstacles and one water obstacle, about a meter deep
- The wife to be carried may be your own, a neighbour’s or you may have found her farther afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age
- The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilos. If she weighs less, she will be burdened with a heavy rucksack to reach the desired minimum weight.
- The winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time
- If a contestant drops the wife, he has to lift her on to his back or in his arms and continue carrying
- The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier
- The contestants run the race two at a time, so each heat is a contest in itself
- Each contestant takes care of his/her safety and, if deemed necessary, insurance
- The contestants have to pay attention to the instructions given by the organisers of the competition
- The participation fee 50 € per a couple
For more information on The World Wife Carrying Championships visit the official site. The 2012 Championships will be held in Sonkajärvi on July 6th and 7th.