Iditarod draws mushers from around the globe

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - If you thought mushing was limited to Americans and Canadians, you’d be wrong.

This year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race features a Swede and five Norwegians, including Robert Sorlie, the 2003 and 2005 champion.

A contingent of racing officials from Norway and Sweden visited Alaska last summer to look for ways to promote the sport even more in their countries.

Mushing also isn’t limited to Arctic nations. This year’s field includes mushers from Australia, New Zealand and even Jamaica.

But of all those entries, it’s the Norwegians who are causing the most worry for the North Americans. That’s because they’re tough, they’re experienced, and they’ve been training in different conditions.

“They are a wild card, and I think that they’ll be in there, and I think they will be players,” veteran Alaska musher DeeDee Jonrowe said before the race. Jonrowe was among the first mushers forced to drop out because of poor trail conditions shortly after the race started Sunday in Willow.

She noted the Norwegians have been training in fluffy, deep snow, while Alaska mushers had hard-packed trails.

“That will either be a real advantage or perhaps a disadvantage for them,” Jonrowe said.

Defending champion Mitch Seavey said this could be the year any number of mushers wins the race, but he’s keeping an eye on Sorlie, who is competing in his fifth Alaska race.

“He knows how to win the Iditarod,” Seavey said.

Sorlie said the Iditarod is the world standard, and that’s what has drawn so many Norwegians to Alaska this year.

“The biggest thing you can do as a long-distance musher is do this race,” said Sorlie, of Hurdal, Norway.

Besides his two wins, the 56-year-old competed as a rookie in 2002, when he finished in ninth place. His other finish was in 2007, when he came in 12th.

He was in fifth place at mid-day Friday.

The other Norwegians competing are Yvonne Dabakk of Oslo, Tommy Jordbrudal of Longyearbyen, Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Mo i Rana, and Ralph Johannessen of Dagali.

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