Jerome Roehm and Olivia Dowling, of Newark carried home top honors in the National Wife Carrying Competition in Maine this past weekend. Video courtesy of the Sunday River Resort. 10/14/19
Damian Giletto, The News Journal
A Newark couple on Saturday won the North American Wife Carrying Championship, an intense competition where men carry women over logs and through muddy water.
Olivia and Jerome Roehm of Team Lovebirds crossed the 278-yard muddy obstacle course at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine, in 55.95 seconds to win the 20th annual event.
They had to make it through two log hurdles and one water obstacle, known as the “Widow Maker.”
“Really we were just interested in having a fun day,” Olivia said in an interview at the finish line. “So this is awesome!”
“We just came out here to have a great time, and we did. And we happened to win,” Jerome said.
The couples’ family, who were watching from the sidelines, gave them “scouting reports,” shouted instructions on what side of the water pit they should stay toward to avoid falling.
The Roehms also trained for the competition, with Jerome running up and down a hill at a local park with Olivia on his back, much to the amusement of other parkgoers.
“Being carried, you really just have to be as stiff as you possibly can, as a backpack,” Olivia said. “So, I did a lot of core work basically through this run. I was constantly clenching my midsection.”
The Roehms competed against 44 other couples to make it to the final round of the competition, organizers said.
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.
The choice of hold is up to each couple, but many 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.
In North America, contestants do not have to be married or even in a romantic relationship. They must be over 21, and the “wife” must weigh at least 108 pounds or wear weights to reach the requirement.
Team Lovebirds took home six cases of beer in addition to five times Olivia’s weight in cash, totaling $555, and the Roehms are now eligible to participate in the world championship next year in Finland.
Olivia is a digital marketing strategist and Jerome is a graduate student in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Delaware.
Christine Arsenault and Jesse Wall of Team Cure Mito, from Oxford, Maine, finished second with a time of 1 minute 2 seconds. They took home Arsenault’s weight in beer and two cases of soda.
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