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Sunday, August 8, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK

World: Europe

Finland's hot competition

Entrants came from across the country to compete

Competitors in Finland's latest championship worked up a sweat this weekend as they battled it out for the title of the country's top sauna sitter.

The BBC's Tristram Biggs reports: Only the very coolest can stand it
With temperatures rising - literally - entrants queued up to prove they were man or woman enough to slowly poach themselves for longer than anyone else.

Taking a sauna is one of Finland's favourite pastimes with an estimated 2 million saunas catering for a population of just 5 million.

The contest comes hot on the heels of other Finnish championships including wife-carrying and mosquito-killing competitions.

The rules were simple, if you can't stand the heat - get out of the sauna.

Matter of pride

[ image: Some weren't quite man enough for the challenge]
Some weren't quite man enough for the challenge
Competitors were also knocked out of the competition if they could no longer sit upright.

The eight women contenders went first, the winner emerging 13 minutes 10 seconds later as organisers pushed the temperature towards 100ºC.

Then came the 52-strong male contingent, each determined to prove their mettle.

Organisers had thought that a quarter of an hour would be the most any man could manage, but in the end the overall champion sweated it out for 20 minutes and 22 seconds.

Which just shows that in Finland some really do like it HOT.

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