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Russian contestant dies in searing 225-degree heat at World Sauna Championships


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Russian contestant dies in searing 225-degree heat at World Sauna Championships



By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 4:09 PM on 8th August 2010




The Sauna World Championships ended in tragedy at the weekend when one of the two finallists collapsed and died.

Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, a Russian amateur wrestler in his 60s, suffered severe burns in the bizarre annual event in the southern Finnish town of Heinola.

He was pronounced dead late on Saturday after he collapsed alongside reigning champion Timo Kaukonen of Finland roughly six minutes into the final round.


article-1301281-0AB885B4000005DC-527_468x329.jpg Timo Kaukonen of Finland (right) and Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy of Russia sit in a sauna during the men's final for the Sauna World Championships in Heinola




article-1301281-0AB885A0000005DC-951_468x334.jpg Timo Kaukonen is removed from the sauna during the men's final of the sauna competition


The 'sport' calls on participants to sit in a 230-degree (110 Celsius) room as water was tossed onto a searing stove, officials and witnesses said.

Medical workers pulled both men out of the sauna in front of nearly 1,000 horrified spectators.

Both were shaking and bleeding from what appeared to be severe burns, said Hakon Eikesdal, a photographer with the Norwegian daily Dagbladet.

Kaukonen, about 40, was hospitalised in stable condition Sunday, contest spokesman Ossi Arvela said.

The event, which had over 130 participants from 15 countries, had been held since 1999. It will never be held again, Arvela said.


article-1301281-0AB93534000005DC-428_468x370.jpg Emergency: Kaukonen and Ladyzhenskiy are shielded by a tarpaulin as medic attend to the two men


article-1301281-0AB87EC3000005DC-294_468x312.jpg Horrified spectators comfort each other after it becomes apparent that something has gone horribly wrong



A pint of water is added to the stove every 30 seconds and the last person to remain at the sauna is the winner.

There was no prize other than 'some small things' Arvela said. He declined to provide details.

Arvela said Kaukonen - the defending world champion - had refused to leave the sauna despite getting sick.

Sauna bathing is a popular past-time in Finland, which has an estimated 1.6 million saunas for a population of 5 million.

Temperatures are normally kept around 158 to 176 degrees (70-80 degrees Celsius).

'I know this is very hard to understand to people outside Finland who are not familiar with the sauna habit,' Arvela said.

'It is not so unusual to have 110 degrees in a sauna. A lot of competitors before have sat in higher temperatures than that.'

Arvala said all rules in Saturday's competition were followed and the temperatures and times were similar to those in previous years.

He said police are investigating the death.

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