Day IV – 1st July 2017 – Our start in World Wife Carrying Championship
Finally the day has come! On the 1st July the World Wife Carrying Championship – our reason for visiting Finland – were supposed to take place. The beginning was planned at 3 p.m., so we had some time to do different things.
We started our morning with scrambled eggs, which wasn’t that easy in our little pot, but it tasted excellent eaten outdoors.
After breakfast we went back to the national bottle museum, which was closed the day before. The museum is the biggest tourist attraction – apart from the annual tournament of course. They have 6000 different bottles – we even found some Polish ones ( e.g. zywiec beer, vodka zubrowka). Some bottles had really sophisticated shapes and looked like animals or weapons, some looked like they had hundred of years. In the next building there was an exhibition and we really liked it! The artist was drawing only skeletons, but in clothes and during normal activities. We specially liked one drawing called “Second Hand”.
We went back to our “Olympic village”, changed in different clothes and went to the preparation area, where each lady had to be weighed. According to the regulations a woman had to weighed at least 49 kg – if she weighed less, she would have to put on a backpack with some weights. It was Dominika’s turn… she weighed 48,6 kg. The women weighing her let her eat and drink something and come back later. She did so and after drinking some water and eating chocolate bar, her weight was acceptable. We did some stretching and running and tried out our technique one more time.
The race was supposed to start at 3 p.m, and 15 minutes before that there was a march of the participants with their national flags. A couple from Poland found us and we really enjoyed talking to them, but unfortunately the organizers disappointed us. We were the only country that they didn’t have flag prepared.
After the march we were informed of the starting rules. In each race 3 pairs took part and we were starting according to our numbers. We had number 20 which meant we should start in the first half of the competitors. From now on everything happened very quickly. 3 p.m., first run, second one, third one and they called us by our number… It was our turn!
We were starting in 5th or 6th run and we were lucky, because we were standing on the left – the track was also turning left, which meant we had a little bit less distance. Next to us were two Finnish couples, our age. We all wished each other good luck, the speaker read our names (he even managed to say “Bydgoszcz”, “Poland” and “Bydgoskie Okonie”, which is the name of our running team) and we heard the signal to take the women on a back or shoulders – depending on style. Of course we didn’t understand a word in Finnish, we were just doing what others did. Then we heard the starting cannon.
Here we divided our story, as each of us had a different perspective of what happened next:
DOMINIKA – upside down perspective : While we were standing in our position my heart was pounding like crazy, even though I knew that I’m not the one responsible of what will happen during the race. I didn’t have to worry about when will we start, but I was terrified I won’t know what’s happening and I pitied Max. Start! Max started running and I did the only thing I could: I was looking on the ground, waiting for the moment I see the edge of the pool, so I would know when to take a deep breath. Here it is! I took a breath and felt Max bounce off the ground – we jumped into the freezing water. Nothing really has changed, apart from that we were now in the water – I still had no idea what was going on. Also I felt that we didn’t really move. Everything was happening so quickly, that I don’t even remember why my head emerged from the water – maybe it was just a reflex? When I did it I also must’ve loosen the grip and I was no longer holding Max. Fortunately I knew it didn’t mean disqualification, so I just got hold of his shoulders and we managed to get to the opposite edge. Here is when the trouble began again. The pool was just a hole in the ground and it was covered with foil. We were sliding each time we tried to get out and I felt that by holding on Max I only make it worse – I was pulling him down. The only solution was to let go of him, but that could mean falling back to the pool again and we didn’t have time for that. Finally we managed to clamber out of the pool and after saying “ok” (which could be a question or just an assurance that we are continuing this) I climbed on Max. Again I was upside down, but this time I was soaked wet. Max was running like crazy again and I heard the speaker shouting our names and the crowd cheering – we probably were close to another pair! I was so proud of Max that he didn’t slow down at all and I felt that he was turning. That meant I had to open my eyes to check where the first obstacle is. It was a log and for safety reasons there was plenty of sawdust around it and I had to keep my eyes closed. I couldn’t let go of Max even with one hand, even if I had sawdust in my eye, because that would result in falling. Max quickly dealt with the first log and I decided to open my eyes and check how we are doing. I saw only our shadow, but I felt that we were catching on with the pair ahead of us. My predictions were confirmed by the crazy cheering crowd. My shoulders were getting numb from holding Max so tight and I felt really tired, but I wasn’t the one doing the hard work here! I couldn’t imagine what he was going through. I saw the track in my mind and I started to mentally get ready for the last obstacle. I felt Max climbing and I felt the other pair so close to us. We almost got them! I knew exactly how close we are to the finish line, I was repeating that to my sore shoulders. BAM! I heard a terrible shout of the speaker and audience and felt pain as I hit the ground. I was so shocked, after opening my eyes I realised I was alone, lying on my back. I remember thinking something like: “Not this now!” and I saw terribly terrified and breathless Max. He was repeating “I’m sorry” like a madman and helped me to get up – I didn’t know what was the fuss about, we had to keep going, we were so close! I told him that I’m fine and kind of jumped on him not caring about our technique anymore. He carried me to the finish line, running – which took him a second. And that’s it. Everything was over. We hugged totally exhausted and headed to our stuff and Max checked my elbows. They were all in blood. Now I understood why he was so terrified.
MAX : After the cannon I started quite fast, but I’ve left some strength for later. I was worried only about the pool. We jumped in it with other pairs, but what happened in the pool costed us couple of precious seconds. I jumped exactly like the others (we’ve watched their technique during the tryouts). The pool had about 1 meter depth. I went under the water and couldn’t get out. I spent maybe 2 seconds totally confused and unfortunately opened my eyes – one of my contact lenses was now full of water. After two or three second of struggling I felt Dominika letting go of me and I managed to lean over the water level and take a deep breath. Dominika grabbed my arms (which was ok according to the rules) and we somehow managed to swim to the other edge. We succeeded in getting out of the water and I took Dominika on my shoulders again and started running. One couple stayed in the water and the other had 30 metres of advantage over us. I started chasing them! Running in wet clothes and shoes was very uncomfortable and in addition I had to run with one eye closed (because of the lense full of water). The first obstacle we overcame quite quickly. We had about 100 metres to the next one and than 10 metres to the finish line. We were getting closer to the first pair and I heard the speaker read our names and our city. The audience was very loud. We were getting close to the last log and to the first pair as well. We had 30 metres to the log and 5 or 6 to the pair. My legs were exhausted and I have no idea how I managed to breathe, but catching up with the rivals got me going. When we were at the last obstacle we were really really close to the pair. The audience was crazy seeing what was happening. We were so close I knew we could beat them! I just had the got off the log before them and finish the race. But I made a mistake. I wanted to speed up, but I was still getting of the obstacle and I didn’t have a chance to catch my balance. After 240 meters with Dominika on my back I wasn’t fresh. I felt that I’m falling down and couldn’t do anything about it. We fell on the ground heavily and the audience gave a terrified shout… While our rivals were on the finish line I was apologizing Dominika. She was in blood. I was horrified. But she jumped on me after getting up and we quickly run to the finish line – 5 seconds after the first pair in our race.
What was the result of our fall? Dominika’s elbows were bleeding, she was sore and had dirty clothes, Max had ragged knees and palms. We found medics and they told us to take shower in the school first. They took care of Dominika’s elbows, but it was so unprofessional, that we would do it better. We came back to the arena to see the rest of the races. We saw the winners, they did it in 1 minute and 8 seconds. Our time was 1:29:81. We were exactly in the middle – we were 23th. There was 46 pairs taking part, but one didn’t manage to finish their race.
After that we ate dinner in our tent. We were so tired! In the evening we went to see the decoration and started thinking about the next day – we had to go 350 km North (hitchhiking of course).
After decoration we packed everything we could and went to join other participants during a concert. One of the bands really caught our attention. We also went to check out a party for the participants from other countries. It was in a library and we were more interested in the books, rather than the party itself. Back in our tent we were laying and eating chips (we deserved them!) and thinking about this day and the days that will come. When will we sleep tomorrow?