The third instalment of World’s Weirdest Sports is all about Finland. When it comes to wacky and ridiculous competitions, the Finns are not afraid. It seems like they will turn almost anything into a competition and Donal Lucey is going to take us through three of the weirdest this week.
1. Wife Carrying
This week’s first sport, and most popular, is Wife Carrying. Men, carrying their wives, race through an obstacle course that includes sand, water and fences. If you manage to clock up the fastest time, you will typically be rewarded with your wife’s weight in beer.
The World Championships are hosted each July in the Finnish town of Sonkajarven. The sport has grown increasingly popular and is played across the world, with events in the US, Australia, China and Ireland. Some countries even have feeder competitions. The North American Wife Carrying Championships, for example, awards their winners by paying their travel expenses to go on and compete in Finland.
The UK Wife Carrying Race was held just last week on March 15th. It saw 50 competitors run a 380m course. If you’re interested in competition closer to home, a Wife Carrying race is part of the events at the Sneem Family Festival in Kerry.
2. Mobile Phone Throwing
Another international sport that originated in Finland is Mobile Phone Throwing. It is, as one would expect, a sport in which participants throw a mobile phone and are judged on their distance or technique.
The World Championships were first held in 2000 and have continued annually in Savonlinna, Finland. Since then, national competitions have been held across Europe and there has even been winter championships held in Switzerland. Like Wife Carrying, most of these national competitions reward their winners with a place in the World Championships in Finland. If you win the World Championships you are rewarded with…a brand new mobile phone.
At present there are four divisions:
- Team Original
But after this year’s World Championships, new divisions are being looked at for future events.
3. Sauna World Championships
The World Sauna Championships were an annual endurance contest held in Heinola, Finland, running from 1999 to 2010. They actually began as unofficial sauna-sitting competitions but were banned from swimming pools when this was discovered. Before the last competition in 2010, the event had grown so popular that contestants from over 20 countries took part.
The championships run a format that includes preliminary rounds and finals. The starting temperature in the men’s competition is 110°C and half a litre of water is poured on the stove every 30 seconds. The winner is, of course, the last person to remain in the sauna AND walk out without assistance. The Finns dominate this sport and only one foreign competitor has ever made it to the finals.
After the death of one finalist and near-death of another during the 2010 championship, the organizers announced that they would no longer host the event. On 7 August 2010, Russian finalist and former third-place finisher Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Finnish five-time champion Timo Kaukonen passed out after six minutes in the sauna, both suffering from terrible burns and trauma. Ladyzhensky eventually passed away from third degree burns, aided by the use of painkillers and local anesthetic grease (which were illegal for the competition). It is not yet known whether the competition will be held in the future.
Pundit Arena, Donal Lucey.