FAIRBANKS-Five-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson of Two Rivers has withdrawn from the 40th running of the "Last Great Race," according to the Iditarod's official website.
The Iditarod website said Swenson, 61, withdrew from the race for personal reasons.
Mark Nordman, Iditarod race director and race marshal, said Swenson informed him of his decision Thursday.
"I've known Rick for a long time, raced with him, and it's an extreme disappointment," Nordman said. "He's the man of the trail and has knowledge to pass on to all the mushers.
"He is an innovator and continues to be," Nordman added. "He's the master of dog care and one so many look up to. He will be missed out there this year."
Nordman said he expects Swenson to enter the race next year.
Swenson has started the 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome 35 times and finished 33. He had 20 top 10 finishes, from his first race in 1976 (10th) through 1995.
Swenson is the only five-time winner of the Iditarod. His victories came in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1991. He has won the Humanitarian and Sportsmanship awards twice. He has won the Most Inspirational Musher and the Musher's Choice awards.
"We will miss him on the trail this year but respect the tough decision he had to make," the official notice on the Iditarod website said.
"He's respected by all, worldwide," Nordman said. "When you say Iditarod, he's still the one everyone talks about."
Attempts by the News-Miner to reach Swenson Thursday evening were unsuccessful.
Contact Sports Editor Bob Eley 459-7581.