HEINOLA, Finland (Reuters) - “It wasn’t fun after two or three minutes,” said Sauna World Championship organizer Ossi Arvela.
One hundred sixty men and women from 23 countries participated in the 10th annual sauna championships in Finland, with the Finns dominating due to what Women’s title winner Leila Kulin described as “sisu” — usually translated as perseverance.
Bjarne Hermansson of Finland outlasted the competition and endured the heat for 18:15 minutes.
“I have been training a lot with my brother to achieve this win,” Hermansson told Reuters after he was crowned the 2008 Sauna Champion late on Saturday.
Kulin sweated her way to the Women’s title with a time of 5:22 minutes in the sauna.
Usually people stay in a sauna for about 5 minutes at a time, without the extreme humidity of the contest saunas.
Finland, where saunas are about as numerous as cars and a part of everyday life, has dominated the men’s contest since its start 10 years ago, but Belarussians have often captured the women’s title so Kulin’s win was a bit of an upset.
The contest was held in Heinola, 130 km north of Helsinki, where saunas were heated to 110 degrees Celsius and a half liter of water was poured on the sizzling stones every 30 seconds.
“The main rules have not changed since the beginning of the competition 10 years ago, we have six men or women sitting inside the sauna (on each round) and the winner is the last one to leave,” Arvela said.
“There are no world records ... we cannot control all the factors like the temperature of the sauna or the water thrown into the stove,” Arvela said.
When the championship started in 1999 five countries and 60 contestants participated.
Editing by Mary Gabriel