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Finland hosts wife-carrying world championships

Twenty years since the first world wife carrying championship was held in Sonkajarvi, Finland, 40 pairs from seven countries assemble to take part in the 2013 edition of the event.

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

Another theory is that it stems from an even earlier tribal practice of wife-stealing.

In honour of this, many contestants now take up the challenge with someone else's wife.

This year, as in the four previous years, the winning couple was Finnish pair Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen.

The most popular method of carrying the women is called the 'Estonian' method.

Wrapping the women's legs around the man's head and hanging upside-down behind them, it was allegedly inspired by how Eastern Europeans use to carry their women - at least according to folklore.

Miettinen said that he had been doing some track training in preparation of defending his title, but had been slower than anticipated during the race.

His winning time over the 253.5 metre track was one minute and 0.22 seconds.

The world record for the event still stands at 56.9 seconds.

Estonians Zahkna and Merlin Zahkna came second, roughly four seconds after the Finnish pair, while Matt Witko and Hattie Archer of Great Britain came third.

They had only come together a few days before the contest when Witko, a UK national champion, had advertised on social media for a wife to carry.

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Male competitors have to carry their female teammate as fast as they can negotiating obstacles while running. If they drop their wife the team has a penalty added to their finish time.

Fifty teams took part and had to navigate a three-foot high log hurdle, a small pond called the The Widow Maker and a sand trap known as Sand Mountain.

Spectators after some entertainment grabbed a spot beside the 10-metre long waist-deep water hazard where carrier's often stumble in the water.

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The couple won the championship and prizes including cash equal to five times Haapanen's weight and her weight in beer too.

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