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Odd sports: wife carrying

By Hana Webber, sports staff

Three teams of spouses participate in the wife/girlfriend carry at the base picnic Aug. 26. From left to right are 1st Lt. Jeffrey Beene, 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron CCE, and his wife Erin; Chief Master Sgt. Duane Buchi, 341st Medical Group superintendant, and his wife Lynn; and Daniel Christian and his wife Brittany, Buchi's family members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Cortney Paxton)

Wife carrying, also known as eukonkanto in Finland, is a race in which males compete against each other while carrying their wives. The objective of the sport is for the male racers to challenge each other for the fastest time, while carrying their partner throughout the whole obstacle course. The fastest partners are awarded the wife’s weight in money. In Finland, the prize is commonly the wife’s weight in beer.

Wife carrying first originated in Sonkajärvi, Finland, and is based on a 19th century legend. The activity is thought to have been modeled after the tails of “Ronkainen the Robber.”

Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen lead his stealthy band of robbers throughout Finland, causing chaos within neighboring villages. However, Ronkainen had high standards for admitting robbers into his group; applicants were required to compete for their positions by maneuvering through an intense course with the burden of a heavy sack or a woman -stolen from the villages- on their backs.

Techniques used within the sport of wife-carrying have developed greatly throughout history. Men can practice the fireman’s carry, which involved the male holding the female over the shoulder, or the Estonian-style carry, in which the wife dangles from her husband’s shoulders, with hands around his waist.

Although often disregarded as a joke, this sport is taken very seriously by it’s competitors and participants.Today, the traditional Wife Carrying Championships occur in Sonkajärvi, Finland, as of 1992. It is practiced globally, in several nations such as Australia, Estonia, China, and Great Britain, and it even has a designated category in the Guinness Book of Records. In the United States, the Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine annually hosts the North American Wife Carrying Championships on Columbus Day. This course consists of three unique races, two on land and one in the water. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan also host significant Wife Carrying Competitions throughout the year.

Wife carrying is growing in popularity as a sport and hobby across the world. Maybe one day, the partners and their marriages will be as strong as their backs.