The strange case of the blacklisted musher

Twelve-year-old Dylan Salvisberg made the cut. A gold ulu may be waiting for him at the Arctic Winter Games this winter.

Twelve-year-old Dylan Salvisberg made the cut.

A gold ulu may be waiting for him at the Arctic Winter Games this winter.

He is one of four youth mushers chosen to represent Team Yukon in Kenai, Alaska.

Salvisberg should be happy.

But he’s not.

His father Michael Salvisberg had hoped to coach his son at the Games.

Instead, he has been mysteriously blacklisted by the Yukon Junior Association of Mushers.

To coach athletes, hopefuls must meet the requirements of the sports governing body, said Trevor Twardochleb executive director of Sport Yukon and manager of Team Yukon at the Games.

In this case, the governing body is the Junior Association of Mushers.

“They are responsible for running the trials and making the selections for coaches and athletes,” said Twardochleb.

Only mushing association members can be coaches.

But when Michael applied to become a member, he was denied.

The junior association decided not to pick Michael Salvisberg as a coach, said Sean Fitzgerald, the vice-president of the association.

“He is not allowed to become a member,” said Fitzgerald, who refused to say why the association made this decision.

“In a nutshell, it is a form of personal conflict between myself and members of the association’s executive,” said Michael.

“But this shouldn’t be about that — it is about my son, Dylan.”

Four coaches have been chosen to accompany the four young mushers to the Games.

Three of these coaches are parents of the mushers.

Dylan is the only young competitor whose parent is not a coach.

When asked who will be coaching Dylan, Fitzgerald said it could be Darren Kinvig, president of the Junior Association of Mushers.

His son Ben Kinvig will be competing against Dylan in the juvenile category at the Games.

“I don’t see this as a conflict of interest, because we want our team to do absolutely the best — period,” said Fitzgerald.

“And we don’t necessarily know who is coaching, we don’t have to name a coach for each child.

“The kids know what they are doing; they almost don’t need coaches.”

Fitzgerald is the fourth coach.

“How is a child supposed to accept the authority of someone who is slandering his father?” said Michael.

“It is completely ridiculous.”

The father and son had difficulty with the association right from the start, and were forced to ferret out information about the races.

It was hard to find out about the qualifying races, said Michael.

“We weren’t notified in a timely fashion — we weren’t given details until one week before the race.”

The trials took place December 10th and 11th at Bear Creek Summit, near Haines Junction.

Seven youths competed for four spots, two in the juvenile category (ages 11-15) and two in the junior category (ages 16-19).

This will be the second time Dylan will compete at the Games as a member of Team Yukon.

“Dylan was fine without his dad at the last Arctic Games,” said Fitzgerald.

“And his dad can still go watch — no one is stopping him from going.”

When asked how he felt about not having his father as coach, Dylan said, “I could live with it.”

But he is not happy with the association’s decision, he said.

“It puts extreme duress on Dylan,” said Michael.

“At the present time, our decision is supported by Sports Yukon and the Yukon Societies Act,” said Fitzgerald.

“Sports Yukon sided with the Junior Association of Mushers — it’s an old boys’ club,” said Michael.

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