20th Annual North American Wife Carrying Championship At Sunday River

Finishing with a time of 55.95 seconds, North American Wife Carrying Champions Olivia Rowling and Jerome Roehm of Team Lovebirds from Newark, Delaware, were crowned the winners of the 20th annual event held at Sunday River Resort.

Team Lovebirds competed against 44 other couples to make it to the final round against competitors Christine Arsenault and Jesse Wall of Team Cure Mito, from Oxford, Maine, who finished the race with a time of 1:02:34. Team Lovebirds took home six cases of beer in addition to five times Rowling’s weight in cash, totaling $555.Team Cure Mito took home Arsenault’s weight in beer and two cases of soda.

Third place was awarded to Melissa Vigue and Nathan Lewia of Team CrossFit Couple from Wells, Maine with a time of 1:04.36, who beat out Amy and Jesse Mead of Team Sisu Mentality from Portland, Maine, with a time of 1:08.88. First place for the Clydesdale category—a couple who have a combined weight of over 350 pounds—was awarded to Liza and Adam Drew of Team Bottoms Up, from Harrisville, New Hampshire with a time of 1:16.38. Team Cure Mito also won the combined age of over 80 category.  

Rowling and Roehm of Team Lovebirds are first-time winners of the competition, and they intend to travel from Delaware again next year to compete and defend their title. Team Cure Mito, who are multi-year champions including in 2018, was dethroned this year with a time only 3.62 seconds slower than their 2018 time.

Built to international specifications, the North American Wife Carrying Championship course is 278 yards in length, with two log hurdles, and one water obstacle often referred to as the "Widow Maker." The 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. For 2019, couples traveled from as far as California to compete.

The North American race format varies slightly from Finland’s World Championship in that there is no minimum weight limit for the wife and the "man and wife" pair must both be 21 years old. Additionally, a head-to-head final race between the top two fastest couples determines the North American Championship couple, rather than a single run-for-time format at the World Championships.

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 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.

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