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 230-degree (110 Celsius) room as water was tossed onto a searing stove, officials and witnesses said.
Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy was pronounced dead late Saturday after he collapsed in the sauna alongside reigning champion Timo Kaukonen of Finland. Medical workers pulled both men out of the sauna and administered first aid in front of nearly 1,000 spectators in the southern Finnish town of Heinola.
Both were shaking and bleeding from what appeared to be severe burns, said Hakon Eikesdal, a photographer with the Norwegian daily Dagbladet.
Kaukonen was hospitalized in stable condition Sunday, contest spokesman Ossi Arvela said.
The annual contest, which had over 130 participants from 15 countries, had been held since 1999. It will never be held again, Arvela said.
Half a liter (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 appearing 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.