Monday, June 27, 2011

Jeff King returns to the Iditarod

4time Iditarod Champion Jeff King (2010)
It didn't take the four time champion to realize he's not done yet. King was one of the first in line Saturday morning to sign up for the 40th Iditarod Race. This is huge news for fans and officials alike. Coming up on a major milestone (fourty years of Iditarod) with some of the biggest name in the sports history lined up for the prize, and along comes the reportedly retired musher to try to nab another title.

King retired after a third place finish in the 2010 race. He had been very vocal prior to the start of the race that it would be his last. He was one of the old dogs, he wanted a break. If you were able to follow the musher on facebook you know he did just that, with trips all over North America as well as Norway to witness a historic sled dog race over there. Followers were bombarded with his political endeavors (let's just say he's not a fan of Palin or any of her picks for any political seat), and were wooed by Jeff's pics of his rescued pig. (Yes, that's right, Wilma the pig.)

The buzz of a return started earlier this year after Jeff returned from Norway and his posts about the race over there. He denied his desire to return. Then late last week Jeff asked for information on the Volunteer picnic - which is also the first day of sign ups. Immediately he was flooded with posts asking if he was returning. He coyly did not directly answer, but his posts leaned more to suggesting he was just in it for the food, not the race.

Then, at the picnic an announcement was made. Jeff King was one of the 47 mushers who signed up that day to put their bid in for the 2012 Champion. He will join the likes of Mitch and Dallas Seavey, Martin Buser, Lance Mackey, Jim Lanier, Paul Gebhardt, Hugh Neff, John Baker, and DeeDee Jonrowe. All capable in their own rights, all vying for the ultimate prize.

Also returning after hiatus: Rookie Pat Moon who ran the race two years ago but was forced to scratch after his accident along the Dal Zel Gorge in which he was rescued by another musher, and Aaron Burmeister  who retired so that he could be on the inside of Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) decisions. Team Norway will also be represented this year with Sigrid Ekran. With the price of travel, and the entry fee for the race, going sky high Team Norway had announced last year that they would most likely not make the trip to Alaska again, but it looks like with the entry fee's being lower this year, and the purse higher, at least one of the team will try their luck again.

Mushers have until sometime in December to sign up for the Last Great Race on Earth. Volunteers will begin signing up for the race around that time. Iditarod 40 has already generated a lot of buzz - a lot of it focussed right now on King and the rivalry he and Mackey share - and it looks like it'll be a race to remember.

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