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Norwegian wins Iditarod

Joar Ulsom of Norway won the world's most famous sled dog race Wednesday after a grueling dash across Alaska's rough terrain, but he earned tens of thousands of dollars less than last year's top musher at the struggling Iditarod.

"It's pretty unreal I pulled it off," Ulsom told reporters at the finish line in Nome, Alaska.

After nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres), Ulsom and the eight dogs on his team came off the Bering Sea ice onto Nome's main street. He slapped hands with fans who lined the streets and went under the finish line at 3 a.m. local time Wednesday.

"I don't know what to say about it. It's out of this world," he said before hugging each of his dogs. His supporters crowded the finish line, one waving Norway's flag.

Ulsom's victory generated heavy media attention in Norway, a winter sports nation still basking in the glory of winning the most medals at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"This is completely insane. It's fantastic to win this race here," Ulsom said, according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK. "It was rather tough. It was hard to keep my tears back when I crossed the finish line."

The 31-year-old, who took the lead Monday when Nicolas Petit got off course in a blizzard, became the third person born outside the U.S. to claim the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He's also the second Norwegian after Robert Sorlie, a two-time winner who cheered Ulsom's progress along the trail.

Ulsom said he had no idea he had taken the lead when Petit got off course. He saw a sled track ahead of him, and figured he would find someone resting at the checkpoint.

It was a pleasant surprise when he found out he was the first musher to arrive, and figured he had "a good shot at taking it home then."

Ulsom moved in 2011 from Norway to Willow, Alaska, the dog mushing capital of the U.S. He first entered the Iditarod in 2013, when he was named rookie of the year, and has never finished below seventh place. His previous best finishes were fourth-place rankings in both 2017 and 2014.

Ulsom picks up about $50,000, a drop from the 2017 winner's earnings of more than $71,000.

The race, which began March 4, has been suffering financially and lost the Wells Fargo bank as a major sponsor over the last year. Organizers have blamed animal rights activists for putting pressure on sponsors.



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