Oddly Enough

Irish woman seeks "husband" for 120 litres of beer

SONKAJARVI, Finland (Reuters) - Julia Galvin came to Finland looking for a man that would carry her 120 kg over a 253-metres track -- the incentive being the chance to win the wife-carrying world title and beer worth her body weight.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

In the end the Irish woman was carried by an English man through a pool and across hurdles. She did not make the gold, but said she would keep trying until the title and the beer was hers.

“I think I am worth carrying because I am a walking party,” she said.

Wife-carrying is one of a host of bizarre contests that Finns, who can tend to gloominess in the long winter dark, have devised for the scant months of summer when the sun hardly sets and people’s mood turns frolicsome.

Forty-eight couples from 13 countries, including Kenya, Australia and Canada, gathered in the remote Finnish village to complete the track.

Estonia reigned supreme once again, as Alar Voogla sprinted home in just over one minute to win the Baltic country’s 11th title, with Kirsti Viltrop clinging upside-down to his back.

“Yesterday we have had a really bad luck, because we fell and we lost our first place in the sprint and today it’s super,” Viltrop said, after completing the main track.

Germany took away the silver and England the bronze, while hosting Finns had to do with a win for the 100-metre sprint, organised as a side-competition to the world-known event.

While some competitors are nearly professional athletes, others do it for fun or as a hobby. Third-place winners Ash Davies and Aila Bruce put extra thought in designing their costume, to get the extra edge.

“We came with our costume designer all the way from England -- she has designed this especially, so we can compete, streamline you know, aerodynamic tuning,” Davies said.

Some 5,000 people came to view the event, set deep in forests and lakes a couple of hours’ drive from the Arctic Circle.

The contest is rooted in the legend of Ronkainen the Robber, said in the 19th century to have tested aspiring members of his gang by forcing them to lug sacks of grain or live swine over a similar course.

It also purportedly stems from an even earlier tribal practice of wife-stealing, in honour of which many contestants now take up the challenge with someone else’s wife.

It has also inspired others to organise events such as sauna sitting, swamp football, cell phone throwing or karaoke singing. All are part of a summer bonanza of events that rake in visitors and cash for as long as the midnight sun shines.

Reporting by Attila Cser, Writing by Agnieszka Flak