Wife-carrying champs do it again

ENGLAND (REUTERS) - It is often said that working together and supporting each other are crucial for a successful marriage.

And nowhere in the world of non-professional sport is this more perfectly illustrated than in the unique and demanding discipline of wife-carrying.

The 9th annual UK wife-carrying championships took place on an overcast Sunday (March 6) spring morning, in the small town of Dorking in Surrey in south-eastern England.

Folklore has it that the weighty sport descends from a Scandinavian tradition, where raiders needed to be swift on their legs to escape when stealing womenfolk from neighboring villages.

Couples race over a hilly 380m course, which features straw bale obstacles, plus a splash zone, ensuring competitors get thoroughly soaked before heading to the finish line.

There is a minimum 50kg weight rule for the wife or person being carried; some women carry men and others are same-sex pairings.

Entrants are weighed before the start of the race to ensure they meet this minimum weight requirement, and any under the threshold have to carry a rucksack of extra weight ballast to compete.

The prize fund is particularly coveted with a barrel of ale going to the victor.

American Jonathan Schwochert and his wife Charlotte Xiong took top honours in the quirky event for the second successive year.

Their time this year was a UK record, 1 minute and 40 seconds, beating their time of last year by 20 seconds.

The couple, who lived in Milwaukee in the United States before moving to London seven years ago, take the event very seriously, regularly training for it.

"We do a little course that we kept running last year very quietly and out of the way where there weren't too many people to look," Mr Schwochert explained.

The pair will now compete in the world championships in Finland later this year.