|Posted on February 23, 2014 at 9:55 AM|
Written by Jacob Savill
When a woman thinks of being swept off her feet by a man, this is perhaps not the way in which she intended. Wife Carrying, or Eukenota in its original Finnish form, may seem a bit of a joke, yet it is taken very seriously by competitors, and has a vast cultural impact in Eastern Europe; it has even been adopted as the national sport in Estonia. The first Wife Carrying World Championship was conducted in Sonkarjarvi, Finland in 1992, and the sport has since received a cult following, spreading from Scandinavia into the rest of Europe and beyond. There are now 6 major Wife Carrying tournaments held annually - including the reputable UK Wife Carrying Championship.
It is believed that the sport originated from a Finnish urban folktale. As legend has it, a bandit named Rosvo Ronkainen led groups of men to steal women and other delicacies from neighbouring villages. The damsels in distress understandably wouldn’t go willingly, so they had to be carried on the backs of the males - and originating from this, the sport of Wife Carrying emerged.
There aren't many rules that come with Wife Carrying, perhaps illustrated by the rather notable fact that the woman you carry on your back doesn't actually need to be your wife. In fact, very few of the couples that participate in Championships worldwide are married. The course is 255 metres long, and the winners are the couple that complete the course in the fastest time, negotiating testing obstacles comprising of stone fences and water. A new regulation has developed recently, that a minimum weight of 49 kilos must be achieved by the woman if she wishes to participate. This rule was drafted in, as it became standard for men to rock up at Championship events accompanied by specially elected dwarfs. If the woman doesn't tip the scales on her own accord, then she must wear a weighted rucksack that brings her up to the minimum level.
You would expect that the men who carry the lightest wives are seriously advantaged would you not? However, in an ingenious rule twist adopted by the Wife Carrying authorities, the prize for the winning couple is not an illustrious trophy, but the woman's weight in beer – providing a substantial incentive not to use the lightest wife you can get your hands on. Another curious rule, as stated in the official Wife Carrying rule book states that ‘all participants must enjoy themselves.’ This does appear to be a rather tricky rule to police, and I doubt that it is enforced brutally by the powers at be.
Despite being of Finnish origin, there is much agreement amongst connoisseurs of the game, that the Estonians really set the pace when it comes to revolutionizing technique. In the 1990’s Estonians developed a carrying technique called ‘The Estonian Carry.’ As it has turned out, what the Fosbury Flop did for High Jump, The Estonian Carry has done for Wife Carrying. With this method, the woman is held-upside down with her legs interlocked in front of the man’s head, and her arms wrapped around his waist (as seen in the picture above.) Whilst this carry provides optimum balance for the male, it has two obvious drawbacks. Firstly, it results in a serious head rush for the wife, and if her partner fails to complete the course quickly, it is not uncommon for the wife to blackout completely – requiring immediate medical attention. Secondly, the unfortunate mechanics of the position mean that the woman’s face usually lies adjacent to the male’s rear end, which isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience.
It is common practice that in the weeks approaching the Wife Carrying World Championships, women who for some unknown reason are interested in partaking, start searching for potential partners (as soon as their own husband has vehemently refused). Inevitably though, this ‘match-making’ process usually results in the men selecting the best-looking women they can find, rather than a partner who would be most suited for their chances of success. One major drawback of Wife Carrying for men is that it provides them with a serious conflict of interests. The twin hazards of wife-carrying are that if you run too vigorously, then you will undoubtedly do your back in, but perhaps more importantly, if you run too slow you risk implying that your wife is too fat, which will only result in a serious domestic backlash. As a result most men would much rather endure considerable physical pain. There is actually a bonus prize for the male that completes the course with the heaviest wife; however, this is a highly unpopular prize and many unsurprisingly find it insulting to be awarded this particular accolade.