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World Iditarod: Historic plane to transport Thomas Waerner home to Norway after dog musher left stranded for months in Alaska

13:51  02 june  2020
13:51  02 june  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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Following his win and several months stuck in Alaska , Iditarod Champion and Norwegian Thomas Waerner is finally on his way home with no fewer Back in April, Waerner had said he'd considered that plan to take an historic plane back overseas with his dogs "kind of a long shot," and one that

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Thomas Waerner won this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, but he is Waerner and his 16 dogs have been stranded in Alaska by travel restrictions and flight The 47-year-old plans to fly home in early June on a DC-6 aircraft bound for the Air History Museum in

What to do when you're stranded in Alaska by a global pandemic and are trying to get back home to Norway -- with 24 dogs in tow.

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It's been quite a three months for dog musher Thomas Waerner, who tells CNN Sport it's the kind of a story he'll remember until the day he dies.

The 47-year-old won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, but canceled flights and travel restrictions have prevented him from returning home to his family.

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Thomas Waerner, a 46-year-old Norwegian , has claimed his first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race victory. Waerner made the winner's march up Front Street and

Mushers who have a dog die during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will be out of the race that year, unless the death "was caused solely by unforeseeable, external forces," according to a rule change approved by the Iditarod governing board Friday. "I just think it is very important for the Iditarod to

But fear not, the intrepid adventurer has come up with an innovative escape plan.

He's booked his passage on a historic aircraft destined for a Norwegian museum, with his team of dogs for company.

"Winning the race and then going back on the plane ... I think this was one of the cool things that happen in life," Waerner told CNN Sport in a phone interview.

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Iconic Iditarod

The Iditarod is a legendary long-distance race held every year on the trail between Anchorage and Nome.

The nearly 1,000-mile race covers some of the most extreme terrains on Earth, each team powered by 64 booted paws and a musher's dogged desire.

This year was Waerner's second stab at the challenging contest and winning after nine days of hard work was a dream come true for the veteran musher -- the person who drives the sled.

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Thomas Waerner is finally heading home to Norway ! Accompanied by his sled dogs , fellow Norwegian musher Tom Frode Johansen‘s dogs , and a couple other friends catching a ride. More than 2 months after Waerner won the Iditarod , he’s still in Alaska waiting to return to Norway .

Since crossing the finish line, however, he has been holed up with friends in the rural US state whilst he plotted his somewhat unusual route home.

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Waerner's plan was hatched after he read a local airline was trying to sell a DC-6 aircraft -- a historic airliner -- to The Museum of Aviation History in Sola, Norway.

The plane enjoyed more than 60 years of continuous service, making its maiden voyage in 1946 before flying in three separate continents.

Coincidentally, Waerner's friends had connections with the plane's now owner and, with help from his sponsor, he's managed to hitch a lift home on June 2.

Waerner will be joined on the aircraft by those 24 dogs -- 16 of his own and an additional eight left behind by a fellow competitor.

"Life is a little strange," he laughed, admitting the situation was all a bit surreal. "But I am a forward, positive guy. If you're just positive you will always find solutions and you will overcome your obstacles."

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'A strange feeling'

It's been more than three months since Waerner left for Alaska. His wife, Guro, had traveled with him but left early when the pandemic began to take hold of the world.

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Home . Dog Care. Iditarod Rookie Kaci Murringer is the 2020 Iditarod Red Lantern winner. Kaci Murringer is the last official finisher representing the last of the Elim 11 to cross the finish line! Four-Time Iditarod Champ Martin Buser and Rookie Riley Dyche are the 2nd and 3rd Elim 11 mushers to

The Iditarod Trail Dog mushing is Alaska 's official sport, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held every March is the longest, toughest test of a Kodiak Brown Bears Kodiak Island is home to world famous brown bears. Known for their huge size and large numbers, sighting a Kodiak Brownie is the

Waerner has five children and 35 dogs back in Norway so he's aware he has a lot of catching up to do with his veterinarian wife and kids -- not forgetting an assortment of household duties.

"I feel a little bad for her having all these jobs and I'm not there to support her at all," he said."So it'll be nice to get home and get back to normal life."

Whilst stranded on another continent, Waerner has been filling his days by training his dogs and walking with his close friends during what he's dubbed his "retired life in Alaska."

He stays in daily contact with his family over video calls and can't wait to enjoy coffee with his wife and dinner with the kids again.

With the traditional Iditarod winner's banquet and ceremonies postponed because of lockdown restrictions, Waerner's personal victory parade hasn't been quite what he had imagined.

"I really wanted to win the race at one point in my life, and then you suddenly do it," he said. "I still have to look at the trophy and remember we actually did win, it's kind of a strange feeling."

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'You get really strong mentally'

However, his adventure hasn't put him off the idea of returning to Alaska and he is keent to participate in next year's Itidarod.

Waerner firmly believes it's his ability to deal with the challenges posed by the Itidarod that has helped him overcome his current predicament.

"It's like a wave of negative things coming against you when you're racing because you have so much sleep deprivation," he reflects.

"You have warm weather, cold weather, it's raining, you're going through bad trails, good trails and things are happening that you have to deal with all the time.

"I think my long-distance career has helped me because you get really strong mentally [in order] to deal with negative things."

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