Iditarod winner stuck in Alaska

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Thomas Wærner, the Norwegian musher who’s now won all the world’s most prestigious dog-sled races, suddenly finds himself stuck at an airport departure gate. Nearly a month after winning the Iditarod race i Alaska, neither he nor his dogs can get home to Norway because of Corona virus restrictions.

Champion musher Thomas Wærner, shown here enjoying one of his many dog-sled race victories, now just wants to get back home to Norway after winning the Iditarod in Alaska last month. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“The last flight you could take with dogs took off while I was still on the race trails,” Wærner told state broadcaster NRK on Thursday. He said it was “completely impossible” to travel with ordinary passenger airlines now, while cargo transport is closed for live animals.

He said he’d been told it may not reopen until after the summer. “The way things look here in the US, this may be an extremely long process,” the otherwise triumphant musher told NRK. “Everything is closed and it’s not allowed to travel unnecessarily.”

Getting home to his wife, five children and 35 other dogs at their home and kennel in Nord-Torpa apparently isn’t viewed as necessary travel. It’s all put a damper on his hard-won victory in the Iditarod, which is held every year and runs over around 1,600 kilometers from Anchorage in the southeast to Nome in the northwest.

Wærner won both Norway’s own Finnmarksløpet and Femundsløpet last year, and set his sights on also winning the world’s longest and toughest race in Alaska.

The 47-year-old Wærner became the third Norwegian to win Iditarod with his dogs on March 18, following Robert Sørlie’s victories in both 2003 and 2005 and Joar Leifseth Ulsom’s in 2018. Wærner’s victory came just a week after Norway went into Corona shut-down mode on March 12, and then the US followed.

There was no major party at the finish line, because of Corona concerns, and his wife Guro Byfuglien Wærner had already traveled home to beat any travel restrictions. She was jubilant over his victory, telling NRK that “he has dreamed about this since he was a little boy. I wish I could have been with him, but it’s still great to see that hard work yields results. This is a victory that has taken years of work and planning.”

Now Wærner just has to get home. “I can see that he’s kind of banging his head against a wall right now,” his wife told NRK. “Fortunately we have videochat, but we miss him a lot.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund