UK Wife Carrying champ beats the mud to win place in world final

DORKING, England, April 9 (Reuters) - With a sliding dive worthy of a rugby try, Chris Hepworth flung himself and his partner over the finishing line to become UK Wife Carrying champion, and now has his eye on the world title.

The couple beat around 40 pairs over the 380 meter (quarter-mile) course on Sunday, in a race that was marred by the injury of one wife when her husband slipped in the copious mud and landed on her.

The sport is open to any adult couple, married or not, with the "wife" - of any gender - required to weigh at least 50 kg (110 pounds). On the British course, runners have to tackle hay bale obstacles and are showered with water by spectators.

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Having set a course record of one minute and 37 seconds, Hepworth and his partner Tanisha Prince from London plan to take up the chance of competing in the world finals in Finland.

"I think a Finnish guy wins it every year so it'll be good to go there and take them down," said Hepworth, who claims he did no practice for the race in Dorking, south of London.

Most of the competitors adopt the "the Estonian carry," with the wife upside-down, their legs over their partner's shoulders and gripping them around the waist from behind.

Some participants take the race less seriously than others. One wore a wedding dress, a blond wig and make-up as he carried his wife, piggy-back style, dressed as a jockey.

"I think Malcolm gets the hard part," said his partner. "I just hang on for dear life." (Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London Editing by Robin Pomeroy)