Finnish couple win the World Wife-Carrying Championship

posted by Chris Valentine


Sport is one of the biggest leisure activities on the planet. Sports such as football, tennis, athletics etc. are undeniably sporting activities, and even less strenuous games like darts and shooting are classed under the sporting umbrella. In other words, it doesn’t have to be a physically demanding activity to be badged as a sport.

There are plenty of weird sporting activities around – things like Chess Boxing, Cheese Rolling, and Extreme Ironing. But have you ever heard of a sport called “Wife-Carrying?”

Yes, Wife-Carrying is a competitive sport. In fact, there is an official Wife-Carrying World Championship, and the winners this year were Lithuanian parents Vytautus Kirkliasuskas and Neringa Kirkliauskiene.

Wife-Carrying racing involves running, carrying your wife or partner through a pool of water which has a slippery bottom; and negotiating an obstacle course with your partner on your back. Although a recognised sport, it is not yet a sport you can bet on online, although localised betting wherever the competitions are hosted, is sure to take place.

The origins of Wife-Carrying

The notion of Wife-Carrying becoming a sport allegedly emanates from the legend of Ronkainen the Robber, a man who lived in the forests of Finland in the 1800s. There are three ideas as to why he did what he did – i.e. rushing around with his gang, carrying women off on their backs.

The first thought is that he and his men raided nearby villages, stealing food and women who they carried away on their backs. The second thought is that the gang specifically took other men’s wives who they wanted to wed, themselves. The final idea, which is almost boringly practical, is that carrying women on their backs was a way of training to become stronger and faster in the flee.

There is also a school of thought that says that Wife-Carrying stems from an even earlier time when wife stealing was rampant, and this may be why some current day practitioners of the sport, race with other men’s wives on their backs.

The Finnish couple who won this year’s World crown were obviously delighted, and after the race, Kirkliauskas proudly proclaimed his partner was indeed his wife and that she was the best.

Finland fosters many strange sports

Finland is no stranger when it comes down to having some rather odd sports. It may have something to do with the fact that as a nation they have only three months of light in the year. They have to make the best of it, and the result is that they have invented the sports of World boot throwing, air guitar playing and hurling mobile phones through the air, to name but three.

Official Wife-Carrying may be a much larger sport than you at first think. The World Championships are in their 23rd year, and countries that hold their own national championships include Sweden, The United Kingdom and the United States. In fact, in this year’s World final, 53 couples took part from 13 different countries.

Spare a thought for Extreme-Ironing

While Wife-Carrying does sound rather strange as a recognised sport, spare a thought for Extreme Ironing. It seems people will go to all sorts of lengths to show off their sporting prowess and have some great fun at the same time.

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