The first wife carrying competition was held in the town of Sonkajärvi in Finland in 1992 and today the world championships are an annual event. The obstacle track features dry obstacles as well as a one meter deep water obstacle to get pass. The person being carried does not actually have to be the carrier’s wife, the rules clearly states that it can be your neighbor’s wife or anyone else really. She must, however, be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 49 kg (108 lbs). If she doesn’t she will be fitted with a backpack bringing the carried weight up to that number.
There are a few stories explaining the origin of this sport. One is that young men would go to neighboring villages to steal other men’s wives to marry them. Another is that the 19th century robber Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen and his gang of thieves would steal food and women and carry them on their backs. The third is that Rosvo-Ronkainen trained his fellow thieves to carry their loot faster by making them practice with heavy sacks and that this later turned into a sport.
There are different techniques used by the contestants. Some prefer the classical piggyback style, others the fireman’s carry and some what is known as Estonian style. The latter might be more specific to the world of wife-carrying with the wife hanging upside-down on the man’s back with her legs on the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist).
Apart from the couple getting through the obstacle course the fastest rewards ara also handed out to the most entertaining couple, to the strongest carrier and the couple with the best costumes.
Many might consider the sport of wife-carrying to be somewhat of a joke but to many of the contestants it’s as serious as any other sport. Regardless of this all contestants are enjoying taking part of the competition, otherwise they would break the rule stating that “all participants must enjoy themselves”.