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To Have and to Hold: The Key
To Wife Carrying Is Upside Down

VAIKE-MAARJA, Estonia -- Take it from a world champion: The best way for a man to carry a woman is to dangle her upside down over his back, with her thighs squeezing his neck and her arms around his torso.

"That way, your arms are free to help with balance. It's more stable. There's less shifting of the weight," says Margo Uusorg. He has just carried Egle Soll, her pigtails flapping against his back, around a 278-yard oval track that includes a 3-foot-deep water trough and two hurdles of wooden logs. In just over one minute, they won the Estonian championship here, and qualified for this coming weekend's Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajarvi, Finland, where Mr. Uusorg is a heavy favorite to win his third world crown.

"When you carry this way," he says, "it's much easier."

Ms. Soll, upright again and flushed by the experience, if not the victory, says, "It's not so bad. But you don't see much."

Estonian men turned up in this little farming village lugging their women upside down five years ago, and the sport of wife carrying hasn't been the same since. Suddenly, gone were the glory days of the piggyback carry, the fireman's carry, the wrap-around-the-shoulders carry. The "Estonian carry," as it was dubbed, was in. And Estonians have won five straight wife-carrying world championships. (Actually, "wife carrying" is a misnomer, for the rules in the freestyle competition allow the man to carry any woman older than 17, his wife or not.)

Margo Uusorg carries his 'wife,' Egle Soll, to the starting line.  
This Estonian dominance doesn't sit well with the Finns, who have been wife-carrying since the late 1800s, when marauding gangs would make off with women from neighboring villages. According to legend, a notorious brigand of the time named Rosvo-Ronkainen recruited only men who had first proved their worth by carrying heavy weight on a challenging track.

Now, it is the neighboring Estonians who are getting the spoils of victory. And a frosty Baltic Sea rivalry is getting fiercer.

"Every year," says Taisto Miettinen, "the newspaper headlines say, 'Once again, Finnish guy doesn't win.'&" That would be him. For the past two years, Mr. Miettinen has finished second at the world championships.

"The Finnish wife carriers are like the Boston Red Sox," says Michael Toohey, a Maine house painter who captured sixth place in last year's world championship after winning the North American Wife Carrying Championship in Sunday River, Maine. "People root for them, but they sort of know they won't win." He figured his own chances were slim when he awoke the day of the race and saw one of his Estonian opponents warming up with an early morning work out. "I saw that and I said, 'Wow, they're serious.'&"

The Finns, on the other hand, apparently just want to have fun. One of their world championship rules, in addition to the one imposing a 15-second penalty for dropping a wife, stipulates that "All the participants must have fun." In past competitions, Finns have awarded winners the woman's weight in beer. The Estonians, at their national championships here on June 21, gave winners the woman's weight in mineral water.

"We take too many things seriously," concedes Indrek Keskyla, the mayor of Vaike-Maarja. He blames the communists who ran this Baltic nation. "In the old Soviet Union days, we had to be serious, gray people," he says. Under communist rule, the village pushed to be the best farm cooperative in Estonia. Now, it produces the best wife carriers.

The mayor himself produced a lot of laughs when, leading off for the municipal team in the wife-carrying relay competition, he stumbled in the water hazard, drenching himself and his "wife," a woman who works for the city. But next year, he knows, it might not be so funny. "My wife wants to do it next year," he says. "I said if we do it, we do it for fun. But she says, 'No, we must be serious, we must train.'&"

There were some other laughs. A man dressed as Santa Claus carried Mrs. Claus. Robin Hood carried Maid Marian. And the several hundred spectators gasped when a woman dressed in a nun's habit assumed the Estonian carry position over the shoulders of a man dressed as a monk.

Despite the rather intimate carrying style, there were no jealous wives or partners fuming at trackside. "I'm happy that he won," says Kaia Laas, Mr. Uusorg's girlfriend. "He was already carrying other women when I met him. So I can't complain."

Tell me a story
Read related excerpts from the anthology "Floating Off the Page: The Best of The Wall Street Journal's 'Middle Column.' "
Besides, says Mr. Uusorg, "she's too heavy. Wait, that sounds bad. She's not fat, she's just too heavy for the competition." His girlfriend is nearly six feet tall and weighs about 127 pounds. Ms. Soll, his carrying partner, is barely five feet tall and weighs just 101 pounds.

Which brings us to the touchiest wife-carrying subject of all: weight. As if the Estonian's new carrying method wasn't enough to upset the Finns, they then started showing up in Sonkajarvi with lighter and lighter women. Mr. Uusorg, a 23-year-old administrative officer at the Estonian embassy in Sweden, arrived in 2000 carrying Birgit Ulrich, a college student weighing about 80 pounds. They won in the record time of 55.5 seconds. Then they won again in 2001.

The Sonkajarvi organizers, seeking to slow the Estonians, in 2002 set a weight limit, but not arbitrarily. Forty-nine kilograms, or 108 pounds, is the least a woman can weigh, "the weight of Armi Kuusela more than 50 years ago when she was crowned Miss Universe," the organizers explain.

But even carrying the heftier, 21-year-old Ms. Soll, who wears a weighted vest to bring her up to the weight limit, Mr. Uusorg looks tough to beat. He is tall, muscular and a regular runner. After winning the Estonian title last month in a time of one minute and 34/100ths of second, he said, "That was pretty easy."

Across the Gulf of Finland, in Helsinki, Mr. Miettinen, 38, and nursing a sore back, winced when he heard the time. It is better than his best.

For six years now, he has been trying to catch the Estonians. When the Estonians introduced the upside-down carry, he adopted it the next year, abandoning his old across-the-shoulders method. He improved from fifth place to third.

When the Estonians came with lighter women, he went in search of lighter women, too. In 2001, he found one who weighed 80 pounds. He improved to second place.

With the new weight limit, he has been looking again. Earlier this year, he sized up a co-worker at Finnvera, a corporate financing company. What's your weight, he asked.

"About 48 kilograms," said Eija Stenberg. He asked her to be his "wife." She thought about it overnight and accepted the proposal.

Write to Roger Thurow at roger.thurow@wsj.com

Man with knife is arrested after hijacking bus in Redondo

By Larry Altman

A delusional man hijacked a bus in Redondo Beach, ordered the driver to speed through red lights and called 911, telling a dispatcher someone was going to kill him, officers said Tuesday.

Police learned about the hijacking at 5:30 a.m. Sunday when someone called the police to report an MTA bus near the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach displaying ?CALL THE POLICE? on its destination sign.

No passengers were on the bus.

The driver also had tried to signal the caller to call the police, Redondo Beach police Capt. Joe Leonardi said. The caller lost sight of the bus when it ran a red light, turning onto 182nd Street heading toward Grant Avenue.  Moments later, Redondo Beach police dispatchers received a cellular telephone call from the hijacker.

?He was armed with a knife and he had hijacked MTA bus No. 5484,? Leonardi said. ?The suspect told Communications that he needed the police because someone was trying to kill him.?

Dispatchers kept the man on the line, sometimes speaking with the driver.

?The driver was totally terrified,? Redondo Beach police Sgt. Phil Keenan said.

The hijacker forced the bus operator to run red lights and would not allow him to open the doors.  Dispatchers kept the hijacker on the phone, updating sheriff?s deputies and other police agencies of the location of the bus and its direction.  Sheriff?s deputies caught up to the bus on Vermont Avenue at 245th Street.

?The dispatcher talked to the suspect and said, ?If you need help, you have to pull over,? ? Keenan said.

The hijacker agreed when he noticed a liquor store and said he needed a drink, Keenan said.  

Deputies arrested the man on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.

?Dispatch did a great job keeping the suspect on the cell phone,? Keenan said.

The suspect?s name was not available.

Publish Date:July 2, 2003


--- Quote from: Crafty_Dog ---Saudi jail inmate tells of pain and humiliation
July 1 2003
By Martin Daly

Hospital worker Robert Thomas saw six men taken from their cell to be shot during a horrific jail term in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Thomas, 56, said he was handcuffed, shackled, and survived largely on biscuits. He also said he saw fellow prisoners go insane. Mr Thomas was imprisoned on June 20 last year for a crime he said he did not commit.

His only bedding was a blanket near a hole in the ground. The hole was a toilet for 20 men.

He barely slept and was afraid of the violence he saw throughout his time in the prison.

[more desciption of prison life deleted]

--- End quote ---

Aren't these the kinds of conditions conservatives want to see in US prisons?  They're always claiming our prisons aren't tough enough.

I wonder if there's a Saudi Arabian Tossed Salad Man and is the choice still jelly vs. syrup over there...


What caught my attention in the piece was the notion of the guy going to prison for what his wife did.  No wonder they want to keep their women locked up!  :lol:

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 10, 2003; 8:23 AM

PHOENIX - Jenny Lopez's home is a pile of rubble after a demolition crew mistakenly tore down the wrong house.

The house that was supposed to be demolished Wednesday was across the street from Lopez's, where she had lived for 30 years. Although the home was vacant, the family stored household items there and had hoped to sell it.

House numbers in the southwest Phoenix neighborhood are not well-marked and all the mailboxes sit on one side of the street, making identification difficult.

Foresight Investment Group of Phoenix hired contractors to tear down the house across the street from Lopez's. It was vacant, boarded up and fenced in.

"We were either going to sell the property or build a new house," said Joe Uruquart, one of the company's owners.

One of Lopez's old neighbors spotted the heavy construction equipment in her yard and alerted family members. But when they arrived, the house had already been torn down.

Demolition man David Gomez declined to comment about the incident but told a television station that he would probably lose his job.


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