An English-born musher from Norway running in only his second Iditarod has come first in this years sled dog race across Alaska, one of the few US sports not canceled over fears of the new coronavirus.
Wearner, whose official bio states he was born in England and lives in Torpa, Norway, first ran the Iditarod in 2015, when he finished in 17th place and earned Rookie of the Year honors. In 2019, he won the 745mi (1,200km) Finnmarkslopet, the longest sled dog race in Europe.
Four time Iditarod winner, Mitch Seavey took a respectable second place.
The Iditarod began on 8 March just north of Anchorage for 57 mushers, the second smallest field in two decades. They crossed two mountain ranges and mushed on the frozen Yukon River before reaching the Bering Sea. Since the race started, nine mushers have withdrawn from the race.
Fears over the new coronavirus prompted big changes along the trail for race officials. They asked fans not to fly to Nome for the finish after the city, like many in Alaska, closed public buildings.
In some other villages, which serve as checkpoints along the nearly 1,000mi (1,600km) course, official check-in points were moved outside the communities to limit contact. In one case, the checkpoint was held on the Yukon River.
An animal welfare group took credit for two sponsors with Alaska ties announcing they would drop sponsorship. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims more than 150 dogs have died horrible deaths running the Iditarod since it began in 1973. The Iditarod disputes that number but has declined to provide its own count despite numerous requests by the Associated Press.
Alaska Airlines announced before the race started it would end its four-decade-long financial support, citing a change in the company’s corporate giving strategy. On Monday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership would no longer sponsor the race.
Peta pressures race sponsors to drop out, often conducting protests outside corporate headquarters, like it says it did in Seattle at the airline and in Detroit for the automaker.
The Anchorage dealership was one of the Iditarod’s top-tier sponsors and has for 30 years provided a large chunk of the winner’s prize, a new pickup.
Officials have not announced the amount of this year’s purse, but the cash prizes have shrunk the last few years. Seavey won $71,250 for winning the 2017 race, while 2019 champion Pete Kaiser only received $51,299.