Joar Leifseth Ulsom, a 31-year-old musher from Mo i Rana in Northern Norway, was awash in congratulatory messages from back home after he won the famed Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska this week. He was mostly giving credit to his four-legged friends.
“It’s quite unbelievable that we managed this, it’s out of this world,” Ulsom told local reporters at the end of the tough 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) marathon from Willow to Nome. He and his team of dogs covered the distance in nine days and 12 hours.
“A Norwegian winner in the world’s largest sled dog race, Iditarod!” wrote Norway’s government minister in charge of culture and sports Trine Skei Grande. “Congratulations to Joar Leifseth Ulsom and the dogs!”
He became the first Norwegian to win the highly demanding event since 2005, when Robert Sørlie became the very first. “This has been a dream for me since he won,” Ulsom said.
Geir Waage, mayor of Rana in Nordland County, claimed that Ulsom’s victory can help “put Mo i Rana on the map. We are very proud of Joar and will be inviting him to a victory party at City Hall when he comes home.”
Ulsom was first expected to attend the Iditarod awards banquet in Nome on Sunday. He was also greeting by dog sledding fans from all over the world as he and his remaining team of eight dogs in harness pulled into Nome early Wednesday morning.
He’s the Iditarod’s third international champion and holds the record as the fastest rookie to ever finish the race, according to a press release from the Iditarod organizers. He has finished in the top seven in each of his previous five Iditarod races.
Norway’s own Finnmarksløpet sled dog race in the northernmost county of Finnmark was also underway this week. It ranks as Europe’s longest, at 1,200 kilometers from Alta to Kirkenes and back again. The winner was expected in Alta Friday morning.