With his friend Inga Klauso, 19, riding upside-down on his back, Madis Uusorg, 20, crossed the finishing line after just one minute and 5.3 seconds, securing an Estonian gold in the 2004 Wife-Carrying World Championships in Finland.

The whimsical event, held this weekend for the 13th time, can best be described as a steeplechase in which horses are exchanged for brute human force and the "wife", instead of riding traditional piggy-back style, rides upside down on the runner's back with her legs slung over his shoulders for maximum speed.

"It's pretty unpleasant, but not as bad as it seems," the petite Klauso said.

As she weighs just 48 kilos, one kilo less than the minimum allowed, Uusorg had to be laden with an extra kilo in order to meet the necessary requirements.

The only other requirement for participation is that the "wife" be at least 17 years old.

Despite the name of the contest, there is no need to be married to compete.

This was originally a domestic Finnish competition but Estonian teams have recently dominated.

Earlier in the day, however, it had seemed that Finnish couple Taisto Miettinen and Eija Stenberg would win with their time of one minute and 5.4 seconds.

Running last, Uusorg and Klauso, who study tax auditing together, reached the finish line just a millisecond faster, making it the closest race in the sport's history and relegating the Finns to second place.

"When I started I thought that I would be able to beat them, but I didn't imagine that it would be this close," Uusorg, a keen amateur track and field athlete, admitted afterwards.

It was the third time he had taken part in the event, having previously won a bronze and a silver medal.

Estonia also secured the bronze medal, with husband and wife team Anneli and Jaanus Undrest clocking in at one minute and 12.7 seconds, some 7.4 seconds after their winning fellow-countrymen.

The championships, which draw competitors from around the world, were first organised to bring a humorous element to a county fair and are loosely based on a local legend about a villager who ran to the next hamlet to steal a wife.

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