The dumbest sport on earth: the Sauna World Championships [VIDEO]

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ESPN writer Rick Reilly entered what he calls “quite possibly the world’s dumbest sport”: the Sauna World Championships.  His experience makes for a dually horrifying and wildly entertaining story.

The fundamentals of the sport are simple: contestants lock themselves in hot boxes and roast their bodies – whoever lasts the longest wins. Contestants may wear only a bathing suit that goes eight inches down the leg, and can wipe sweat from the face but not their body.

To prepare for the event, serious contestants spend roughly 20 sessions a day in a sauna at a temperature of 140°C [284°F].  As the championship draws near, they consume around 2.6 gallons of water…a day.

On the day of the contest, “gladiators” (as Reilly calls them) march into two hexagonal, glass saunas built on the stage of an 500-seat open theater.  They’re shivering from their freezing preheat showers, though that will change very quickly.

What happens once everyone’s settled in and the heat’s cranked up? Bad, bad things.  Reilly recalls one particularly horrifying moment when he noticed something terribly wrong with a fellow contestant:

“‘Dude, were you breathing through your nose?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, why?’ he said. ‘Your skin is all gone under your nose! It’s burned off!’ He felt his upper lip in horror. He ran to the mirror. The tops of his ears were split open and bubbling.”

…Is this the most offensive use of the word “sport” imaginable OR the greatest thing to ever happen to our wimpy excuse for athletic prowess? You be the judge.