World sauna contest ends as contestant dies in 110C room

A Russian man trying to win the Sauna World Championships died after collapsing with severe burns in the final stage of an event that required contestants to sit in a 110C room as water was tossed on to a searing stove, officials and witnesses said.

Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, an amateur wrestler who was in his 60s, was pronounced dead late on Saturday after he collapsed beside the reigning champion, Timo Kaukonen 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 organisers tried to cover up the scene and calm spectators.

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

Mr Ladyzhenskiy headed a charity fund in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. The fund's spokesman Konstantin Kruglyansky told the LifeNews daily that his family has demanded an investigation into his death.

Mr Kaukonen, in his 40s, who was hospitalised, was in a stable condition yesterday, contest spokesman Ossi Arvela said. The annual contest has been held since 1999, but it will never be held again, Mr Arvela added.

In the competition, a pint of water is added to the stove every 30 seconds and the last person to remain in the sauna is the winner. There is no prize other than "some small things", according to Mr Arvela. He declined to provide details.

Mr Eikesdal said Mr Kaukonen had refused to leave the sauna, despite getting sick, and that organisers eventually had to force the men out.

Visiting saunas 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. Temperatures are normally kept around 70-80C.

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

According to a research report from 2008, the annual death rate in Finnish saunas was less than two per 100,000 inhabitants, or 100 Finns a year. It said most deaths were because of natural causes, such as heart problems, and that half of the deaths occurred under the influence of alcohol. A quarter of the deaths were the direct result of the heat exposure.

Mr Arvela said that all the rules in Saturday's competition were followed and that the temperatures and times were similar to those in previous years. He added that police are investigating the death.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral