Taisto Miettinen, a mild-mannered insurance lawyer from Helsinki, Finland, never thought of himself as a sportsman. But this 49-year-old has now the prestige of being the five-time reigning champion at the Wife-carrying World Championships.
Held annually on July 4 in the Finnish town of Sonkajärvi, the quirky sports event sees men carrying their female partners while running through an obstacle course in the quickest time. Miettinen was first introduced to the sport in the late 1990s when his work colleagues wanted to prove who was the strongest male employee. “I had no wife, that’s why I started to search the internet for a woman that would fit me. She does need to be my wife to be accepted by the rules,” Miettinen told Metro.
What got you into wife-carrying?
I always thought that I had strong legs and so I wanted to prove it. I made a profile on a dating website and started my research for the lightly-built woman ranging from 46 to 49 kilograms in weight. I sent many messages explaining the competition, and many girls answered. I chose Kristiina [Haapanen] to be my partner because she was the first who contacted me and she is exactly 49 kilograms – that’s the minimum a woman needs to be for the race.
How did you practice?
Just three times through the course before a competition. We also meet in the pub for that! [Laughs]
What is the most difficult while running on a track?
Carrying a 49kg woman! You run through a track of over 250 meters, passing through a pool that 1.2 meters deep. It seems easy because it lasts only one minute, but you have to be strong, fast and persistent.
But what’s your ultimate goal as an athlete?
Firstly, it’s a great way to keep fit. Secondly, the competition’s sponsors give out good prizes: I already won a video camera, TV set, etc. But the coolest thing is a beer prize: if you win, the organizers give you as many liters of alcohol as your woman’s weight.