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The joys of being an Estonian wife

When the great Estonian chess maestro Paul Keres was asked how come he never won the world title, he said: "I was unlucky, like my country." But Estonia is not always unlucky at sport...

10 July 2003

For better or for worse, we human beings are naturally competitive beasts. Whether we're hurling a pumpkin or tossing a dwarf, going for an Olympic old or just Going for Gold with Henry Kelly; whether itís a game of Pictionary in the parlour or stuffing 400 cigarettes in your mouth in the memory of Roy Castle; whether we're waging a war or spreading a religion. In any area of human behaviour, there will always be some of us who need to show everyone else that we're the best.

Usually men of course. Almost always in fact. Go figure.

Last weekend saw the finals of this year's Wife-carrying World Championships in Sonkajarvi, a small town in Finland. Rather misleadingly, the contestants do not necessarily have to be man and wife. In theory they could even be siblings. Although that might be a little off-colour. A man however, must carry a woman. He must carry her through thick and thin over a 250-metre assault course. He must sling her over his back like a slaughtered gazelle and race through the rapids fighting off bees and bears and wildebeests. Why? Because he's a fucking berk, that's why.

Legend has it that like so many classic competitions, wife-carrying kicked off in the 1800s when horny Finns used to - get this - carry off other people's wives. To rape them. And 8000 people turn up to watch and applaud this shameless re-enactment.

Indeed, the 'sport' has become a hugely anticipated event at various venues throughout the world. Apart from the inherent evil in the whole shebang, it is notable also that the established world leaders in wife-carrying are Estonian men. No-one, it seems, can carry a nominal wife through water and in sickness, over fences and in health quite like an Estonian man can.

Pioneers of the now classic 'inverted' hold - where the womanís legs are over the manís shoulders and her head is up his arse - Estonians have been storming to victory since 1998. This year in Finland, they claimed both gold and silver. This was also the year that, suspiciously, a second competition was introduced. It was almost identical to the first, except that the couple had to be properly married, and the wife had to be properly carried, piggy-back style. Classic wife-carrying you might call it. And the winners? Why, Estonians of course.

How proud they must be.


Wife-carrying in the USA:

www.sundayriver.com/summer2003/wifecarry.html



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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