05/01/2012 (press release: mporsild) // Willow, Alaska, USA // Mille Porsild
After nine days of racing along the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean through mountain ranges and across the tundra of Chukotka in the Russian high Arctic, 25-year-old Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway crossed the finish line with his own team of Alaskan Huskies as the winner of Russia’s sled dog race Nadezhda 2012. Leifseth Ulsom set fastest times ever between checkpoints despite the race being held up for more than 48 hours by raging wind storm and blizzard as well as polar bears pursuing race participants, the mushers and their sled dogs along the trail. Just arrived to Alaska “next goal is Iditarod 2013 and hopefully even more success for our online education program Racing Beringia!” he says.
Taking place in Asia’s most eastern corner, in the remote and truly wild region of Chukotka, Nadezhda is one of the toughest sled dog races in the world. The racers are greeted and treated to a feast of dancing and celebration in each community along the route every year, but the distance and route of the race varies from year to year, even changes during the race pending the very harsh conditions often facing the racers. Nadezhda 2012 ran 720 km through six communities.
With its extreme set-up Nadezhda is historically dominated by the Native Chukchi mushers and their thick-coated Chukchi dogs taking home the win. Fellow Norwegian musher Sigrid Ekran, the current world champion in long distance sled dog racing, came to Chukotka last year to check out the Nadezhda race; but Leifseth Ulsom was the single outsider who came to challenge the Chukchi mushers on their home turf in the 2012 race. The only other non-Russian to win the race was Kate Persons (USA) in the first years of the race in 1991-92. One other Norwegian musher have finished Nadezhda, Keital Reitan, placing 4th in 1992. One to have Championed the race most times is Russian and native Chukchi Mikhail Telpin of Yarakkynnot, Chukotka. A marine mammal hunter Telpin has won Nadezhda three times, in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
At the 2012 finish line it was not the win itself or the remarkable margin of 7 hours 31 minutes and 58 seconds that had Leifseth Ulsom ecstatic; it was that Mikhail Telpin and his team of Chukchi dogs were next to claim the second place of the race. Telpin and Leifseth Ulsom are both part of Team Racing Beringia in the online education program Racing Beringia.
Anchored in social and natural science curriculum the program is an opportunity to experience free adventure learning as it broadcasts live from this ancient Arctic region of Beringia to over 5000 classrooms in 34 countries on five continents. Beringia is the region of Yukon (Canada), Alaska (USA) and Chukotka (Russia) that between 40,000 and 11,000 years ago connected the Asian and North American continent in a huge grassy steppe surrounding by glaciers—where mammoths and sable tigers roamed as humans and their sled dogs migrated between continents from east to west.
“Having fun exploring with students around the world Mikhail and I are out here with our dogs experiencing first-hand this awe-inspiring part of the world – this double-win hopefully helps get all of us to the start-line of the Iditarod in Alaska next year, for part two of Racing Beringia!” grins Leifseth Ulsom.
Leifseth Ulsom and his dogs just arrived in Alaska, Mille Porsild, Executive Director of GoNorth! Adventure Learning the US non-profit organization behind the program, confirms that this is indeed the plan. “I think we are in a good position to secure the funding needed, we want to write more curriculum, expand our interactive features and professional development opportunities for teachers with this program — but yes, I expect us to be live next February again at RacingBeringia.com” says Porsild.
Racing Beringia first went live February of 2012 as the team set out in Yukon Quest 2012 International1000-mile Sled Dog Race from Fairbanks Alaska (USA) to Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). North-America’s longest and toughest race had Telpin finish 22nd and Leifseth Ulsom in 6th place as he pressed by Sonny Lindner, Champion of the first Yukon Quest, on the last miles; Telpin is the first to represent Russia in the Yukon Quest.
“I came here last Fall with my dogs hoping to do a good job this season, representing the program, my country and having a happy healthy team while doing so. Really, it is my first season ever of opportunity to be training and running races not having to also work full-time and this is a very young team of dogs—so I was very realistic in my expectations,” says Leifseth Ulsom, “now this, this is living my dreams, beyond my dreams really.”
While in Chukotka, Leifseth Ulsom also laid claim on the 2012 Chukotka Sprint Championship.
Contact: Mille Porsild, GoNorth! Adventure Learning, +1 218.370.0307 or [email protected]
Additional photo download: http://gallery.me.com/polarhusky/100687 (contact [email protected] for username)
Source: GoNorth! Adventure Learning http://www.adventurelearning.com, [email protected]