Team LovebirdsDec 29, 2020 05:09PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
When Jerome Roehm declared his wedding vows three years ago to his wife Olivia, it was to have and to hold forever.
There was nothing in the nuptials, however, that said anything about having to someday carry her.
Last October, the Roehms traveled to the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine to compete in the 20th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship, to compete with 44 other couples from across the United States on a 278-yard-long course that was obstructed by one log hurdle, one dirt mound, one mud pit and an obstacle affectionately referred to as “The Widow Maker.”
With a strong finish in the opening round, the Roehms – who competed under the name “Team Lovebirds” -- qualified for the finals with a time of 55.95 seconds, and then proceeded to finish first in the finals, defeating the second-place couple by one second.
Before they left Maine to return to their home in Newark, the Roehms hoisted a large trophy on the winners stand, packed six cases of beer in the trunk of their car, and received five times the amount of Olivia’s weight in cash -- $555.
Olivia, a marketing strategist, said that being introduced to the event happened by accident, but became feasible when Jerome began to pursue his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Delaware last year.
“We were living in Kansas at the time -- where we met -- and for some reason, a video promoting the event came across my Facebook page, showcasing some of the people who were to compete,” Olivia said. “I thought it looked like fun, and we thought that if we were ever in the Northeast, we should check it out. When we moved to Delaware for Jerome’s doctorate program, we thought, ‘Why don’t we take a weekend, drive up to Maine, and compete?’”
Nearly from the time they first saw the video, Jerome said that he and Olivia would make a great wife carrying team. After all, he is 6’ 6” and a former college football player, and Olivia is a 5’ 2” former dancer, and their athleticism, he said, allowed them to quickly maneuver through the course.
“We witnessed various techniques of getting over the log hurdle that ranged from laying on it, rolling over it, spinning around it and climbing it, but our sizes played to our advantage, that allowed us to actually twirl over the obstacle,” he said. “On our first run, I almost lost it, because my muscles were a bit fatigued and when I began to run down hill, I almost lost control and I could her Olivia yelling at me, ‘Slow down! Slow down!’”
The Roehms had personal coaches who lined the course and gave them scouting reports; Olivia’s family had traveled to Maine from Ottawa, Canada.
“They had been watching the other couples compete, and they advised us to stay to the right side of the mud pit because it seemed to be a bit more shallow,” Jerome said. “There were some unfortunate couples that took spills in the mud pit which added to the entertainment value, but we remained relatively dry.”
The competition of wife carrying traces its origins to Finland, where it became a sport beginning in the 1800s. Within the rules of competition, each couple can choose not only who carries, but their own method of carrying. The Roehms, like most couples do, chose the Estonian Carry, where one partner is hoisted face-down over the other partner’s shoulders and holds his or her own legs while the other partner maneuvers through the course. Essentially, Olivia served as a human backpack to Jerome, and for the entire distance of the race, saw only her husband’s lower back, and the ground.
Contorting themselves into the Estonian Carry, the Roehms began training for the event at the soccer pitch at Papermill Park and the Newark Reservoir, which offered them to opportunity to train on the hurdles there.
“We got a lot of funny looks from people we passed by at Papermill Park,” Jerome said. “So now, when they read this article, they can say that what they saw wasn’t a large man abducting a smaller woman, but in fact two people training to compete in a national wife-carrying event.”
Their win in Maine qualified the Roehms to compete in the world championship on July 4 in Finland, but due to concerns stemming from COVID-19, the 2020 event was canceled.
“We were disappointed because of the fact that the event was scheduled for the Fourth of July, and if we had won, we would have been the first North American couple to win the world championship,” Jerome said.
The event has been rescheduled for 2021.
The Roehms plan to be there.
To watch the Roehms in action at the 20th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship in 2019, click on “North American Wife Carrying Competition – 2019” on YouTube.
If you are interested in helping to defray the Roehm’s travel expenses to the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland in 2021, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/roehms-wife-carrying.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].