Unusual Sports: How “wife-carrying” has its contestants piggy-backing to victory

In today’s world, dominated by technology, we rely heavily on sports for entertainment; classic national sports like football, baseball, and so on dominate in attention and revenue. But what about the sports that aren’t always showcased on a Sunday afternoon? Sports derive from different cultures trying to showcase pride and glory for one’s country, and it is here that you will find those more unpopular sports, with people that still go on to fight and push themselves past their own limitations. 

This new unpopular sport of the week is called “wife-carrying,” and, yes, it is exactly how it sounds. Descended from Finland, this sport entails carrying a woman — the rules ironically state that she does not have to be your wife — through a timed obstacle course. The objective is simple: the participants with the two fastest times advance to the final heat. If you can’t carry your woman the entire time? Don’t worry; if one of the women are dropped, it only adds a five second penalty — this rule seems very reassuring to the female participants. However, the team may not advance without the “wife” being carried. 

There is no right or wrong way to carry your female participant. Some styles include piggyback and fireman’s carry (over the shoulder). The most popular way to carry the women, though, is called the “Estonian Carry.” This is where the “wife” hangs upside down with her legs wrapped around the “husband’s” shoulders while she is holding onto his waist. 

A normal course length for this event is approximately 254 meters or 278 yards. Though this sport originally came from Finland, North America has now also adopted it, and their courses tend to be run on uneven ground, including an elevation challenge somewhere along the way. Another integral part of the course design is that the route usually includes two dry obstacles and one water obstacle, but designs vary by year. 

An interesting rule of the sport: helmets are not required for the female competitor. Though you may think that with all the dropping, it should be required, they say that it is required only in the “world’s” competition. Another interesting rule is that there is no weight limit for a female contestant, but the downside is that weight belts are used to make up the differences in weight. A woman must weigh at least 108 pounds to compete in the world set. Would you rather have the extra pounds on your shoulders or around your torso? 

Wife-carrying is based off of the 19th-century legend “Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen” (Ronkainen the Robber). There are three different stories on how the sport was created. First, Ronkainen and his thieves were accused of stealing food and women from villages around their area. The women would run away, and when the men caught them, they would carry these women slung over their shoulders. The second story is about how men would go to nearby villages to steal other men’s wives and make them their own. The third tells the tale of how Ronkainen trained his thieves by carrying big, heavy sacks on their backs, and that intense training evolved into a sport. 

It might be surprising to find out that wife-carrying has only been around for the last 30 years. The first modern wife-carrying event was held in Finland in 1992, and then in 1995, just three years later, other countries started to train and compete in this sport. This sporting event is held annually in Finland, known as the world championship. North America adopted its own version of the sport in 1999, known as the North American Championship. Sometimes as a tradition for winning the competition, the winners are rewarded with their “wife’s” weight in beer. 

It’s important to note that wife-carrying isn’t the only bizarre sport to have originated from Finland; some other unusual events include international air guitar, swamp soccer and mobile phone throwing! So, if you weren’t a sports fan before reading this, maybe these new bizarre events have now piqued your interest or, at the very least, gave you a good laugh at how ridiculous some of these rules and sports are. Maybe you never considered yourself to be an athlete per se, but there are games out there for many different crazy talents and a variety of interests. 

If you love beer, lifting heavy objects for prolonged periods of time and timed competition, this may be the sport for you!