Eukonkanto: The Wife-carrying Competition In Finland
You may have come across several “strange” cultural practices; some would grip you with fear, while others would leave you astonished. The Eukonkanto or Wife-carrying competition in Finland falls into the latter category.
Strange as it might sound, Eukonkanto or better still, wife-carrying is a real sport in Finland. In fact, it is a highly competitive sport in which male competitors race while each carrying a female teammate (mostly, their wives). The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track in the fastest time.
The sport was first introduced in the Finnish town of Sonkajarvi where the World Wife Carrying Championships is held annually.
There are different versions on how the sports originated albeit they do have one similarity, according to wife-carrying.org, the sport is based on the 19th-century legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or “Ronkainen the Robber.”
In the first version of the tales, Ronkainen and his thieves were accused of stealing food and women from villages in the area he lived in; then carried these women on their backs as they ran away.
Another version said the men would go to villages near their own to steal other men’s wives, and then have the woman become their own wife.
A third version of the story is that Ronkainen trained his thieves by carrying big, heavy sacks on their backs, which eventually evolved into a sport.
The first modern-day wife-carrying event was held in Finland in 1992 and foreign contestants were admitted in 1995. This event is now held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland as the World Championship. A North American Championship was started in 1999.
Although many might consider the sport a joke, competitors take it very seriously.
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).
In the competition, wives are carried through a specially designed course which includes two dry obstacles and one water obstacle. Obstacles may range from sand to small fences and some kind of area filled with water (a pool).
Like every serious sport, the wife carrying competition also has its guidelines which are set by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee. While the International rules are the basis for all competitions, rules and prizes do vary for each competition. Official qualifying competitions in countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and Estonia.
The length of the official track is 253.5 metres with two dry obstacles and a water obstacle about one metre deep.
It is not mandatory that you must be legally married to the “wife” to be carried, she may even be your neighbour’s wife or even someone you met during the competition; she must, however, be over 17 years of age. And her minimum weight must be 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. Yes, that is also one of the rules.
The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier and a helmet worn by the carried. Each contestant takes care of his/her safety and if deemed necessary, insurance.
Special prizes go to the most entertaining couple, the best costume, and the strongest carrier.
And for the grand prize; the wife’s weight in beer goes to the couple who completes the course in the shortest time. Whether you win or lose, the good thing is the sport encourages team spirit among couples.