A Russian finalist in Finland’s annual World Sauna Championships died yesterday after he and his opponent were rushed to the hospital, organizers of heat-endurance contest said. Head of the competition Ossi Arvela said in a statement: “Russian competitor has died in (Sauna World Championships.” He added that the Finnish finalist had been taken from the competition location in Heinola, 86 miles (138 kilometers) north of Helsinki, to a hospital in the larger city of Lahti for treatment.
He said two finalists were Russian Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Timo Kaukonen of Finland. Kaukonen won last year’s championships and Ladyzhensky had also figured among the favorites ahead of Saturday’s meet, in which participants were asked to withstand a sweltering 230F (110C) for as long as possible.
According to Finnish news agency STT, the contest was cut short after about six minutes, and when the doors were opened, both finalists collapsed.
One witness told the news agency they had both suffered serious burns, but Arvela could not confirm the information. “The event was interrupted immediately after the accident. (The) competition organization grieves these sad events,” Arvela said. Police launched an investigation, he said, insisting that”all the rules were followed” and that all the contestants had undergone medical checks before the competition began.
The world championships in sauna sitting have been held in Heinola since 1999, and this year’s event drew 135 contestants from 15 different countries.