The outcome of the Iditarod is unknown at this point, but the winner of this year’s Rookie of the Year Award will almost certainly be Norwegian musher Joar Leifseth Ulsom. Ulsom has run a fantastic race up to this point, with some of the fastest running times between checkpoints. According to Iditarod veteran Sebastian Schnuelle, “he has kept his team steady, not taking huge gambles, and also not getting caught up in some of the one-on-one races either. But he kept on racing aggressively, doing short rests and solid runs.”
Even Ulsom’s lack of rain gear through the lashing storms on the Yukon River didn’t slow him down. His times to Grayling, Eagle Island, and Kaltag are right up there with the top mushers. There’s a good chance Ulsom will finish in the top ten. He is currently in sixth place and is due to leave the White Mountain checkpoint, just 77 miles from Nome, at 5:17pm (AKDT).
Although this is Ulsom’s first Iditarod, he’s no stranger to sled-dog racing. Last year, he placed sixth in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, a race some consider more physically demanding than the Iditarod. Also last year, he won the Nadezhda Hope race, thought to be the toughest sled-dog race on the Eurasian continent, and the Chukotka Sprint Championship in Russia. He has also raced in the Finnmarksløpet, Femundløpet, and the Amundsen Race, three well-known Scandinavian sled-dog races.
Joar, 26, was born in Mo i Rana, Norway, and currently lives in Roros. He came to Alaska in 2011 to be part of Racing Beringia (www.racingberingia.com), a free K-12 online educational program that teaches students about the history and culture of dog sledding in ancient Beringia, a grassland steppe that once spanned 2,000 kilometers across two continents, covering today’s Canadian Yukon Territory, Alaska, and Chukotka, Russia.