A new couple has won the Wife-Carrying World Championships in eastern Finland for the first time in half a dozen years. The new titleholders are the husky Ville Parviainen and the petite Janette Oksman from Vantaa. They vowed to win next year’s 20th anniversary race as well.
Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapalainen, who have ruled the event for the past five years, had to make do with bronze this time. In second place were a British couple, Rich Blake Smith and Anna Marguerite Smith, followed by Norway’s Harald Svandal Bø and Gunnhild Hardersen Presthus.
Vloggers rank mid-table
Alex Ayling, an American travel video blogger (or "vlogger") who advertised for a temporary Finnish “wife” on social media, came in 22nd with Nelli Immonen on his shoulders, while his brother Mark Ayling and his partner Anni Kortelainen placed 29th. Ten couples failed to complete the gruelling course, which includes running through a pool of water.
The tongue-in-cheek contest has been held annually since 1992 in the North Savo town of Sonkajärvi, just north of Iisalmi. It claims to trace its origins back to the nineteenth century when local bandits led by Rosvo-Ronkainen allegedly carried off women from neighbouring villages.
By now the competition – expanded into a two-day festival – has become an international magnet and tourism goldmine for an otherwise unexceptional town. This year’s competitors, who vied for the grand title on Saturday afternoon, included about 50 pairs from 14 countries, including Australia and Mexico. The previous participation record was 43 couples. Some 5,000-6,000 spectators were on hand to witness the offbeat event.