Thomas Waerner of Norway crossed nearly a thousand miles of Alaskan terrain to win the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Wednesday morning, completing the storied competition in just over nine days and 10 hours.
Waerner and his team of 10 dogs crossed the finish line at 12:37 a.m. local time, according to Alaska Public Media. This was Waerner’s first Iditarod victory in two attempts. In 2015, he was named Rookie of the Year after coming in 17th place.
“This is awesome,” Waerner said after the race, which started in Anchorage and ended in Nome, Alaska. “This is something special.”
The 47-year-old musher completed the sled race with a total time of nine days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds. Afterward, he had nothing but praise for his canine team, who he pet and fed immediately after crossing the finish line.
“The dogs are the performance athletes. We are the mushers and we get the credit and everything, but the dogs are incredible athletes,” he said. “Every time I look at the team it’s just amazing how they can perform, how they are able to do it, and being happy about it.”
The team was led by two lead dogs, K2 and Bark.
“Amazing,” Waerner said to describe K2. “He has this inside engine that never stops.”
He added of his other lead dog, Bark: “He’s the one just charging through everything. It doesn’t matter what comes, he will just go through it, storms or whatever. So the two together are an amazing team.”
The total prize money will be calculated based on how many mushers complete the race, but Waerner is guaranteed to receive a pickup truck and a minimum of $50,000.
Waerner is now only the third Norwegian to win the Iditarod, preceded by Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who won the 2018 race, and Robert Sorlie who won in 2003 and 2005.
Musher Mitch Seavey came in second place, crossing the finish line at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday. His final race time was 9 days, 16 hours, 15 minutes, and 38 seconds, KTUU reported.
In third place was Jessie Royer, who arrived at the finish line at 7:47 a.m. She completed the race in 9 days, 17 hours, 47 minutes, and 16 seconds.