Norwegian musher fulfills childhood dream and wins Iditarod race

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As a younger boy who grew up in Norway, Thomas Waerner spent lengthy hours pondering deeply and critically about two kinds of iconic American modes of transportation: muscle automobiles and sled canine in Iditarod.

Waerner, 47, made a kind of goals come true on Wednesday, profitable the Iditarod Trail canine sled race of practically 1,600 miles (1,609 kilometers) in Alaska. He took the lead within the last levels of the race and had a five-hour benefit over the subsequent closest musher, triple champion Mitch Seavey.

"It's great," mentioned Waerner after profitable the race. "It's something special."

Waerner led his group of canine over the mountain ranges, over the frozen Yukon River and throughout the treacherous Bering Sea ice to the end line on Nome's important avenue in 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds.

The race began March eight north of Anchorage and was one of many few sporting occasions within the United States that has not been canceled as a result of new coronavirus.

Iditarod inspired followers to not journey to Nome for arrival as town has closed public buildings to assist stop the unfold of the coronavirus. Events just like the musher's banquet have been postponed.

But followers didn’t use social distancing as they stepped out of bars and inns to applaud Waerner as he chased the group from the Bering Sea ice and descended Nome & # 39; s Front Street to the end line simply after 12:30 p.m.

He will earn a minimal of $ 50,000 and a brand new pickup for profitable the race. The precise money quantity will rely on the variety of mushers who full the race, an element within the allocation of the prize.

Waerner instantly thanked the 10 canine in harness, petting and rubbing every canine, ending his with the main canine K2 and Bark earlier than distributing treats.

He known as K2 "an incredible dog".

"It has this interior engine that never stops," mentioned Waerner.

The bark is the toughest, mentioned the profitable musher.

"He is the one who loads everything. No matter what's going to happen, it's just going to go through it, storms or whatever, "mentioned Waerner. So they're an unbelievable group."

Waerner, who began mushing in 1984, solely received the Iditarod on his second try.

He completed 17th in 2015, when he received the rookie of the yr title. Last yr, Wearner received the 745-mile (1,200 km) Finnmarkslopet, the longest sled canine race in Europe.

As an 11-year-old boy in Norway, he learn mushing magazines touting the accomplishments of a number of the most well-known Iditarod mushers of that point. Their ranks included the one five-time winner, Rick Swenson, and four-time winner, the late Susan Butcher, who within the 1985 race needed to struggle an offended moose with an ax after killing two of his canine.

Waerner informed reporters on the end line that it was nonetheless his "dream to return right here and race."

Waerner has turn out to be the second Norwegian musher previously three years and the third on this century to win the race. Joar Leifseth Ulsom received in 2018 and Robert Sorlie received the 2003 and 2005 titles.

The three Norwegians earned the rookie of the yr honors earlier than profitable.

Waerner inspired different Norwegian mushers to comply with of their footsteps.

"It is a superb race you are able to do," he said. "Just begin coaching."

Warner's victory was additionally a proud second for the Anchorage Sons of Norway chapter. The members thought-about organizing a banquet in his honor in a lodge, however the restrictions put in place by town for concern of the coronavirus thwarted these plans.

"We are very excited," mentioned Lise Falskow, Norwegian Honorary Consul in Alaska

"Whenever a Norwegian is concerned in Iditarod, it's one thing all of us rally round and are very enthusiastic about as a result of the Norwegians are robust and decided and just like the Alaskans, they don't not again down from Iditarod, "she mentioned. informed me.

Waerner lives in Torpa, Norway, along with his spouse, Guro. It is a veterinarian who helps with their kennel. He additionally owns an electrical energy enterprise.

Nome was not the one Iditarod race location the place fears in regards to the coronavirus led to alter. Some native officers in communities alongside the course of the race requested that checkpoints be moved outdoors the villages to forestall the unfold of the virus.

The Iditarod suffered a giant hit this yr when two longtime sponsors with shut ties to Alaska gave up their monetary assist for the race.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave credit score to Alaska Airlines and the Anchorage Chrysler dealership, who gave up assist after concentrating on airline headquarters in Seattle and Fiat Chrysler Automobile places of work in Detroit with protests in opposition to the group known as the merciless therapy of canine through the race.

Alaska Airlines mentioned PETA had nothing to do with its determination, which it known as a change within the firm's donation technique.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles didn’t point out PETA when it confirmed that the independently owned and operated dealership would not sponsor the race.

The Anchorage seller was one of many important sponsors of Iditarod and supplied pickup to the race winner for 30 years.

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Rhonda Shafner, researcher at Associated Press, New York, contributed to this report.

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