FAIRBANKS — Two skijorers from Finland and a musher from Norway were the first three gold medalists in the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports Winter World Championships at Morning Star Park in North Pole.
Marika Tiiperi and Vesa-Pekka Jurvelin captured the women’s and men’s skijoring titles on a brilliantly sunny Saturday afternoon, while Lena Boysen Hillestad captured the four-dog skijoring titles.
Meanwhile, Jessica Doherty of Team USA and Kati Dagenais of Canada increased their leads in the six- and eight-dog classes, which conclude this afternoon at Morning Star Park off Badger Road near the intersection of Hurst Road, behind the Star of the North Academy charter school.
Today’s action starts at noon with a four-dog mass start event, followed by the six-dog class at
1 p.m. and the eighth-dog class at 2 p.m.
Mushers and skijorers from 13 countries are competing in the event that continues next week with skijoring, pulk, combined and relay races at the Darrel Coe Nordic Racing Trails at Salcha Elementary School.
The IFSS Open class race will be run in conjunction with the GCI Open North American on March 15-17 in downtown Fairbanks.
Tiiperi overtook Yvette Hoel of Norway in the women’s two-dog skijoring to claim the gold medal with Sara Johansson finishing third, just ahead of Americans Kelly McGrath and Stephanie Dwyer.
Tiiperi went into Saturday’s second 6.6-mile heat trailing by eight second, but she had the fastest time of the day Saturday, finishing in 18:40, while Hoel crossed the line in 18:58.
Those results gave Tiiperi a two-day time of 37:24, just 10 seconds ahead of Hoel.
Johansson finished two days of racing in 29:50, followed by Johansson in 39:50, McGrath in 40:13 and Dwyer in 41:10.
Jurvelin had the fastest time both days in the men’s two-dog skijor event giving him a 45 second advantage over silver medalist Ynge Hoel of Norway.
Norway’s Svein Ivar Moen captured the bronze medal.
Jurvelin made two trips around the 6.6 mile trail in 36:24, followed by Hoel in 27:09 and Moen in 37:58.
Saamuli Nissanen of Finland was fourth in 39:28 and Greg Jurek of Fairbanks was the top American, rounding out the top five in 39:58.
Boysen Hillestad ran away with the four-dog class, finishing 1:36 ahead of French silver medalist Quentin Soulier. Amy Cooper of Team USA earned the bronze medal, finishing just two seconds behind Soulier.
Boysen Hillestad logged a two-day time of 30:13. The four-dog class raced 5.7 miles each day. Soulier finished in 31:29 and Cooper posted a 31:41.
Sweden’s Elin Bjork was third in 32:03 and Lilly Stewart of the United States was fifth in 32:24.
Doherty will take a lead of more than two minutes in the six-dog class. She’s made two trips around the 6.6 mile trail in 35:34.
The real battle appears to be for the silver and bronze medals where Ami Gjestson of Fairbanks leads a pack of six mushers within 1:02 of each other.
Gjestson has a two-day time of 37:55, followed by Australia’s Phillip Friedlander in 38:15, Canada’s Rachel Kinvig in 28:19, American Kourosh Partow in 28:24, American John Perry in 38:50 and Canada’s Ken Bernard at 38:57.
Dagenais picked up 18 seconds on Fairbanks’ Jason Dunlap to stretch the lead to 41 seconds heading into today’s final 12 mile heat.
Dagenais has completed 24 miles of racing in 1:11:36, while Dunlap has a time of 1:12:17. Christian Taveau of France is third in 1:12:50, with Americans Evelyn Beeter of Chistochina in 1:14:18 and Jennifer Probert-Erhart of Fairbanks 1:14:44 rounding out the top five.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.