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New Champion in Sled Dog Race

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The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a new champion. Peter Kaiser won the 1,600-kilometer race early Wednesday. He is from the U.S. state of Alaska.

Kaiser is the first person of Yup'ik descent to win an Iditarod race, notes a statement on the race's website. Yup'ik refers to a group of native people.

Kaiser's team crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska, with a time of 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes and 6 seconds, said a statement on the Iditarod website. Kaiser won the race by about 40 minutes and beat the defending champion, Norwegian Joar Leifseth Ulsom.

Kaiser has competed in the race several times before. He has won other famous dogsled races, including the Kuskokwim 300.

Pete Kaiser of of Bethel, Alaska poses after winning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after crossing the finish line in Nome, Alaska, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Diana Haecker/Nome Nugget
Pete Kaiser of of Bethel, Alaska poses after winning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after crossing the finish line in Nome, Alaska, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Diana Haecker/Nome Nugget

What is the Iditarod?

The Iditarod is the self-proclaimed 'Last Great Race on Earth.'

Competitors, called mushers, ride sleds dragged by teams of dogs. The sled teams go over difficult ground and combat freezing temperatures and strong winds.

Mushers have different plans for the race. Some lead their teams at night, while others prefer to lead their teams in the day.

Mushers have unique training routines for their dogs and feed them special diets.

The race's official website notes that the Iditarod is 'a tribute to Alaska's history and the role the sled dog played.'

A notable race

This year's race was notable not only for Kaiser's victory, but also for the shocking loss of Nicolas Petit. Petit is a native of France living in Alaska. He had a five-hour lead -- until his dog team stopped running between two checkpoints.

Nicolas Petit checks his dogs before the ceremonial start of the 47th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska, March 2, 2019.
Nicolas Petit checks his dogs before the ceremonial start of the 47th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska, March 2, 2019.

Petit said one dog was bullying another dog during a rest break. "I yelled at Joe and everybody heard Daddy yelling, which doesn't happen,' Petit told reporters from the Anchorage Daily News. After that, the entire team would not run. Petit had to drop out of the race.

This year's race came during a difficult two-year period for the Iditarod. Dog drugging scandals, the loss of national sponsors, and protests by animal rights activists have hurt the race's image.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Mark Theissen reported on this story for AP News. John Russell adapted it for Learning English, with the use of additional sources. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Words in This Story

descent – n. the people in your family who lived before you were born : your ancestors

competitor – n. someone who is trying to win or do better than all others especially in business or sports : someone who is competing

sled – n. a small vehicle that has a flat bottom or long, narrow strips of metal or wood on the bottom and that is used for moving over snow or ice

bully – v. to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone)

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