Roxy Wright-Champaine won the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sled Dog Race Sunday, becoming the first woman to win the 75-mile sprint race in its 43-year history.
For the past four years women have won the 1,150-mile Anchorage-to-Nome Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the world's premier long-distance sled dog race held every March, and now a woman has captured the top sprint-racing title.Wright-Champaine, 38, became the first woman to win the race since it began in 1946. She edged out George Attla, 55, a 10-time world champion who was the subject of the movie "Spirit of the Wind."
"I gave it everything I got," Attla said. "She had a stronger dog team."
The exhausted winner, asked how it felt to win the championship as she burst across the downtown Anchorage finish line, said, "I don't know yet," and had a tough time even getting that out.
The trail covers 25 miles per day and is the climax of the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, the city's annual winter carnival.
Wright-Champaine completed the course with a total time of 267 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Attla by two minutes and three seconds. She takes homes $15,500 of the $50,000 purse; Attla won $10,900.
With her victory, Wright-Champaine makes the World Championship Sled Dog Race a family affair: her husband Charlie Champaine won last year and in 1984 but did not compete this year, and her father Gareth Wright also is a former champ, winning three times in the 1950s.
Wright-Champaine won all three heats, beating Attla by 58 seconds Friday, by 40 seconds Saturday, and by 25 seconds Sunday.
Wright-Champaine has won the women's world championship sled dog race eight times, but victory in the male-dominated world championship has eluded her in 11 tries. She finished second behind her husband last year.
Only one other woman entered the race that included 17 men. Of the 19 mushers, or sled dog drivers, there were 15 Alaskans, three Canadians, and one from New Hampshire. Winner and runner-up are both Alaskans: Wright-Champaine is from Salcha and Attla lives in North Pole near Fairbanks.