Wife carrying sport stems from men stealing wives

NEWRY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Dozens of couples carried their partners on their backs for a 278-yard alpine obstacle course in the 18th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine on Saturday. 

The couples competed for beer and cash. Giana and Elliot Storey of Westbrook raced against Jake and Kirsten Barney from Lexington, Virginia.

The Storeys' lost to the Barney's by two seconds after completing the obstacle course which includes a water obstacle often referred to as the "widow maker." 

This is not the first race between the two competing couples.  Last year the Storeys' took the lead and beat the Barneys' during the 2016 Wife Carrying Championships.

According to Sunday River Spokesperson Darcy Lambert, the legend behind the event is based on Finland’s "Ronkainen the robber," a gang known to steal the villager's women.

“Based on the 19th-century Finnish legend, wife-carrying became a sport as a result of men stealing wives from neighboring villages as means to prove their worth and strength to the famed henchman, Herkko Ronkainen, also known as Ronkainen the Robber. Men who were able to carry their stolen wives in the wilderness, over stones, stumps, fences, and springs, were accepted into Ronkainen's privileged group of thieves.”

These days, men usually carry women but the couple can choose who carries whom, Lambert said.
“Choice of hold is up to each couple, most of whom choose the Estonian Carry where the woman’s thighs rest on the man’s shoulders in an upside down piggyback. Helmets are not required but often used.”

The couples do not have to be married and the winners head to Finland to compete where the race format varies slightly, in that there is no minimum weight limit for the wife, and the "man and wife" pair must both be 21 years old.
 

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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