Sunday, August 8, 2010

Russian Dies in Sauna Championships

"Damn, Yuri, it's hot in here!! No more Finn Soup for me!!"

August 8, 2010

HELSINKI — A Russian man trying to win the Sauna World Championship died after collapsing with severe burns in the final stage of an event that required contestants to sit in a 110 degree Celsius room as water was tossed onto a searing stove. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy (above left), an amateur wrestler who was in his 60s, was pronounced dead late Saturday after he collapsed alongside reigning champion Timo Kaukonen (right) of Finland, roughly six minutes into the final round.

Nearly 1,000 spectators had gathered in the southern Finnish town of Heinola to watch 130 competitors from 15 countries, waving flags and cheering on the contestants before medical workers pulled the shaking and bleeding men out of the sauna. Video footage shows workers pouring cold water over the two men and administering first aid as organizers tried to cover up the scene and calm spectators. Kaukonen — the defending world champion — had refused to leave the sauna despite getting sick. Organizers had to force the men out.

There was no prize other than "some small things."

Sauna bathing is a popular pastime in the Nordic countries and Russia, but especially in Finland, which has an estimated 1.6 million saunas for a population of 5 million people.

According to a research report from 2008, the annual death rate in Finnish saunas was less than 2 per 100,000 inhabitants- around 100 Finns a year. The majority of deaths were due to natural causes, such as heart problems and that half of the deaths occurred under the influence of alcohol. Around 25 percent of the deaths were the direct result of the heat exposure.

The annual contest had been held since 1999. It will never be held again, officials said. Police are investigating the death.

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