Finalist dies at World Sauna event in Finland

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Spectators comfort each other after the accident - 8/08/10
Image caption,
Spectators were deeply shocked by the accident

The annual World Sauna Championships in Finland have ended in tragedy with the death of one of the finalists.

Russian Vladimir Ladyzhensky and his Finnish rival, Timo Kaukonen, collapsed after suffering severe burns. Mr Ladyzhensky later died in hospital.

The event requires participants to withstand 110C (230F) for as long as possible. The men managed six minutes before judges noticed something amiss.

Its chief organiser said all the rules of the event had been followed.

"All the rules were followed and there were enough first aid personnel. All the competitors needed to sign in to the competition with a doctor's certificate," Ossi Arvela told reporters in Heinola, where it was held.

Half a litre of water was added to the stove inside the sauna every 30 seconds, and the last person remaining was the winner. There was no prize other than "some small things", he told the Associated Press.

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

Mr Kaukonen, the defending world champion, had refused to leave the sauna during the final despite appearing sick, Mr Arvela said. He is now said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

Mr Arvela said police were already investigating Mr Ladyzhensky's death, which he said had left the organisers grief-stricken.

The event, which had over 130 participants from 15 countries, had been held since 1999. The organisers said it would never be held again.

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