Wife carrying (Finnish: eukonkanto or akankanto, Estonian: naisekandmine, Swedish: kärringkånk) is a contest in which male competitors race while each carrying a female teammate. The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The sport was first introduced at Sonkajärvi, Finland.
Several types of carrying may be practised: either a classic piggyback, a fireman's carry (over the shoulder), or Estonian-style (wife upside-down on his back with her legs over the neck and shoulders).
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Eukonkanto originated in Finland. Tales have been passed down of a man named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen (aka Ronkainen the Robber). This man was considered a robber in the late 1800s, lived in a forest, and ran around with his gang of thieves causing harm to the villages. From what has been found, there are three ideas as to why/how this sport was invented. Firstly, that Rosvo-Ronkainen and his thieves were accused of stealing food and abducting women from villages in the area he lived in, then carrying these women on their backs as they ran away (hence the "wife" or woman carrying). The second suggestion is that young men would go to neighbouring villages, and abduct women to forcibly marry, often women who were already married. These wives were also carried on the backs of the young men; this was referred to as “the practice of wife stealing". Lastly, is the idea that Rosvo-Ronkainen trained his thieves to be "faster and stronger" by carrying big, heavy sacks on their backs, from which evolved this sport. Though the sport is often considered a joke, competitors take it very seriously, just like any other sport.
Wife carrying contests have taken place in Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, India, Germany, the UK and other parts of the world besides Finland and nearby Sweden, Estonia and Latvia, and the sport has a category in the Guinness Book of Records.
The original course was a rough, rocky terrain with fences and brooks, but it has been altered to suit modern conditions. There is now sand instead of full rocks, fences, and some kind of area filled with water (a pool). These are the following rules set by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee:
- The length of the official track is 253.5 metres.
- The track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle about one metre deep.
- The wife to be carried may be your own, or the neighbour's, or you may have found her further afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age.
- The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilograms. If she 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.
- All participants must enjoy themselves.
- The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier and a helmet worn by the carried.
- The contestants run the race two pairs 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 organizers of the competition.
- There is only one category in the World Championships, and the winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time.
- Also, the most entertaining couple, the best costume, and the strongest carrier will be awarded a special prize.
While the International rules are the basis for all competitions, rules and prizes do vary for each competition.
- 2019 - Vytautas Kirkliauskas (Lithuania) and Neringa Kirkliauskiene (Lithuania), 66.7 seconds.
- 2018 - Vytautas Kirkliauskas (Lithuania) and Neringa Kirkliauskiene (Lithuania), 65.1 seconds.
- 2017 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 68.6 seconds.
- 2016 – Dmitry Sagal (Russia) and Anastasia Loginova (Russia), 62.7 seconds.
- 2015 – Ville Parviainen (Finland) and Sari Viljanen (Finland), 62.7 seconds.
- 2014 – Ville Parviainen (Finland) and Janette Oksman (Finland), 63.7 seconds.
- 2013 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 65.0 seconds.
- 2012 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 61.2 seconds.
- 2011 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 60.7 seconds.
- 2010 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 64.9 seconds.
- 2009 – Taisto Miettinen (Finland) and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland), 62.0 seconds.
- 2008 – Alar Voogla (Estonia) and Kirsti Viltrop (Estonia), 61.9 seconds.
- 2007 – Madis Uusorg (Estonia) and Inga Klauso (Estonia), 61.7 seconds.
- 2006 – Margo Uusorg (Estonia) and Sandra Kullas (Estonia), 56.9 seconds.
- 2005 – Margo Uusorg (Estonia) and Egle Soll (Estonia), 59.1 seconds.
- 2004 – Madis Uusorg (Estonia) and Inga Klauso (Estonia), 65.3 seconds.
- 2003 – Margo Uusorg (Estonia) and Egle Soll (Estonia), 60.7 seconds.
- 2002 – Meelis Tammre (Estonia) and Anne Zillberberg (Estonia), 63.8 seconds.
- 2001 – Margo Uusorg (Estonia) and Birgit Ulrich (Estonia), 55.6 seconds.
- 2000 – Margo Uusorg (Estonia) and Birgit Ulrich (Estonia), 55.5 seconds.
- 1999 – Imre Ambos (Estonia) and Annela Ojaste (Estonia), 64.5 seconds.
- 1998 – Imre Ambos (Estonia) and Annela Ojaste (Estonia), 69.2 seconds.
- 1997 – Jouni Jussila (Finland) and Tiina Jussila (Finland), 65.0 seconds.
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Australian Wife Carrying Championships have been held annually since 2005.
- 2016 – Australian Champions: Adrian and Amanda Betts
- 2013 – South Bank, Brisbane
- 2008 – in Singleton, NSW
- 2007 – Australian Champions: Anthony Partridge and Angela Moore
- 2019 – Olivia and Jerome Roehm (Delaware)
The United Kingdom Wife Carrying Race was established in 2008, though the "sport" is claimed to have taken place "with help from our Scandinavian cousins" for around 300 years from 793AD when Viking raiders raided villages and abducted wives.
- 2008 - Joel Hicks carrying Wendy Cook
- 2009 - Matt Evans carrying Jatinder Gill (the prize was their combined weight in beer - 120 kg)
- 2010 - John Lund
- 2011 - Sam Trowbridge carrying Nathalie
- 2012 - Tom Wilmot carrying Kirsty Wilmot
- 2013 - Mike Witko carrying Lindsey Finn (Mike went on to take 3rd place carrying Hattie Archer in the World Championships in Finland)
- 2014 - Rich Blake Smith carrying Anna
- 2015 - Jonathon Schwochert carrying Charlotte Xiong (this race also saw Joel Hicks carrying "Tiny Tina" a male friend in drag who was 7'4" and 22 stone)
- 2016 - Jonathan Schwochert carrying Charlotte Xiong (this race saw Joel Hicks carrying two wives simultaneously but coming last)
- 2017 - Jack McKendrick carrying Kirsty Jones
- 2018 - Chris Hepworth carrying Tanisha Prince
- 2019 - Chris Hepworth carrying Tanisha Prince
The US final takes place on the second weekend of July in Menahga Minnesota (MN-St. Urho Wife Carry for Charity Challenge). Major wife-carrying competitions are also held in Monona, Wisconsin, Minocqua, Wisconsin and Marquette, Michigan.
Ecorun India, a society for creating environmental awareness organized Wife Carrying Race in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Asia on 1 January 2011. The event is called "Bhaaryaasametham" roughly translated as 'with your wife' in Malayalam, the local language. The society plans on conducting more such events every year in India. Wife carrying in Asia is also called matukinina.
In popular culture
- North American champions Ehrin and April Armstrong were featured as guests on a first season episode of GSN's revival of I've Got a Secret.
- BBC Presenters Mike Bushell and Steph McGovern reversed the roles when they took part in the UK annual wife-carrying competition in 2013, she carried him. The male presenter said this was a first.
- Margo Uusorg and Sandra Kullas hold the world record time for this competition, finishing the 253.5-metre course in 56.9 seconds in 2006.
- The main characters in the 2018 film Father of the Year enter (and win) a wife-carrying contest.
- Wife-carrying is a thing in Finland, SCMP, 8 July 2018
- English, Nick (16 November 2016). "Wife Carrying Is the Latest Strength Sport for Couples". BarBend. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "The Strange Sport of Wife Carrying | bettor.com". Archived from the original on February 19, 2011.
- Thomas, Guy. "Wife Carrying World Championship". Funny Jokes.
- "Maine couple wins North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River Ski Resort".
- The Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2013, Finland hosts annual wife-carrying world championships, retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Wife-carrying team defends title". Melbourne: The Age. 2011-07-03. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
- "Wives in Finland worth their weight in beer". Canada.com. 2008-07-06. Archived from the original on 2012-01-08. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
- "Estonia dominates wife-carrying championships". triplem.com.au. July 9, 2007. Archived from the original on January 11, 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
- "Estonians reign at wife-carrying championships". ABC News Online. Reuters. 2006-07-02. Archived from the original on 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Estonians snatch world wife-carrying title again". ABC News Online. Reuters. 2005-07-03. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Estonian carries 'wife' to glory". BBC News. 2004-07-04. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Estonians romp home in wife-carrying contest". Cape Times. 2003-07-07. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- Vinha, Laura (2001-07-14). "Estonians on top in wife-carrying race". Independent Online. Retrieved 2010-07-11.[dead link]
- "Estonia's clean sweep at wife-carrying". BBC News. 2000-07-02. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- Huuhtanen, Matti (1998-07-04). "Estonians take double victory in international wife carrying contest". Highbeam.com. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Finn carries the day – and his wife – in unique race". Philadelphia Inquirer. 1997-07-06. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Wife carrying makes its mark in Australia". news.com.au. News Limited. April 11, 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
- "The UK Wife Carrying Race". trionium.com.
- "UK wife-carrying contest takes place in Dorking". BBC. April 8, 2018.
- "BBC pair swap roles for 'wife carrying' race". News UK. BBC. 2013-03-30. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- Glenday, Craig. Guinness World Records 2014. pp. 220. ISBN 9781908843159.
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