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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Restrictions Lead Norwegian Champ to Drop Iditarod

November 24, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Norwegian musher Thomas Waerner said Monday that he won’t defend his title at next year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race because of restrictions and uncertainty over travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot find a way to get the dogs to Alaska,” Waerner said in an email to The Associated Press.

As he learned earlier this year, getting to Alaska is only half the battle: Waerner wasn’t able to return to his wife and five children in Torpa, Norway, for months after winning the world’s most famous sled dog race because travel was restricted as the pandemic took hold. The Iditarod was one of the few professional sports that wasn’t canceled last March.

While the defending champion says he won’t participate in the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race across the rugged Alaska terrain, the Iditarod is still scheduled to start March 7.

That includes a fan-friendly ceremonial start a day earlier that usually attracts thousands of people in Anchorage.

Waerner hopes to return to the race in 2022.

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