Finland is a country that likes to celebrate its uniqueness. Whether in its language or its culture, it doesn’t take much to find things that make it different from every other country on earth. Consequently, it should come as no surprise to discover that Finland likes to tread its own path in the field of sport too. Whether sports Finns have invented or sports that Finns love to play, there are plenty of examples of activities that are uniquely Nordic in nature. Here are six of the best.
Wife-carrying (Finnish: Eukonkanto) is a contest where male competitors race while carrying a female teammate. Legend has it the sport originated with Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, a notorious robber of the late 1800s. Rosvo-Ronkainen and his gang of thieves were accused of stealing food and women from villages where he lived by running away with them as fast as possible. In the modern version, the man has to carry the woman through different obstacles, and the fastest man wins. The Wife-Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland since 1992. And the first prize for this uber-macho sport? The wife’s weight in beer! We’re sure Rosvo-Ronkainen would have approved.
Pesäpallo, also referred to as “Finnish baseball” is a fast moving bat-and-ball sport. It was created in the 1920s by Lauri “Tahko” Pihkala, a right-wing activist, who supported eugenics as a means to improve the military prowess of the Finnish people. Pesäpallo was a demonstration sport at the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki, but has since never featured. Similar to baseball, the point of Pesäpallo is that the offence tries to score by hitting the ball successfully with as much power as possible, and running through bases, while the defense tries to get the runner out.
Although originally created in Canada, Finland is one of only four countries that play Ringette. The sport is usually played on an ice rink, mostly by females, and requires the use of ice skates. The sport is similar to ice hockey, but in Ringette the players use straight sticks, and instead of a puck they use a rubber ring. The game was first introduced to Finland in 1979 by Juhani Wahlsten. Wahlsten created teams in Turku and, consequently, Finland’s first ringette club was Ringetteläisiä Turun Siniset.
4. Wellie Throwing
Wellie throwing (Finnish: saappaanheitto) originated in Upperthong, UK. Now every year the world championships is held in the small Yorkshire village, where it’s said the sport originated after a pint of ale was spilt into a local resident’s welly and someone was challenged to see how far they could throw it. Finland is one of just four countries, the others being Poland, Germany, and New Zealand, that’s taken wellie throwing to heart. The aim of the game is simple. To throw the welly as far as you can.
5. Sauna bathing
Since we’re talking about Finnish sports, it’s inevitable to mention sauna will get a mention. The World Sauna Championship was held annually in Heinola, Finland from 1999 to 2010. The rules of the contest were straightforward: The winner was the last person to stay in the sauna and walk out without any help. The starting temperature in the sauna was 110 degrees Celsius, and half a liter of water was poured on the stove every 30 seconds. So yes, the competitors definitely risked their health going into the competition. So much so, that in 2010 one finalist sadly died. After this, the organizers announced that the competition would be cancelled indefinitely. Needless to say, don’t try this at home people!
Mölkky is a Finnish throwing game where the players use a wooden pin to try to knock over other wooden pins that are marked with numbers from one to twelve. Invented by Tuoterengas company in 1996, it’s reminiscent of kyykkä, a centuries-old throwing game with Karelian roots. Knocking over a pin scores the amount of points marked on the pin. The first one who reaches exactly 50 points wins the game, and scoring more than that will set the player’s score back by 25 points. Trust us when we say it sounds easier than it is!
These our super six favourite Finnish sports, but what about yours. Let us know them in the comments below.