Shut out

It would have been interesting to hear how William Kleedehn managed to sneak past Jon Little a kilometre away from Dawson and win the gold. We'd love to tell you about it. But the Carcross musher was off limit...

DAWSON CITY

It would have been interesting to hear how William Kleedehn managed to sneak past Jon Little a kilometre away from Dawson and win the gold.

We’d love to tell you about it.

But the Carcross musher was off limits.

The cluster of media, including newspapers from Alaska, CBC TV, National Public Radio, a well-known author and photographers from around the world were all cordoned off behind an orange sawhorse barrier.

The restricted access is new.

In past years, media have tossed questions to mushers as they checked in, before they started their team again and headed across the ice bridge to Dawson City’s campground.

It worked well.

So the Quest changed it.

Now, after checking in, the musher would be expected to guide their strings of 12 to 14 campground-yearning dogs up to where the media were contained.

It didn’t happen.

Kleedehn, once his team was moving towards the campground, didn’t want to stop them again.

And that makes sense.

After a long run, Kleedehn wanted to get warm food in their bellies and bed them down in the straw that was waiting for them at the campground.

A few of us chased him down the road, and managed to get a few quick quotes before he disappeared into the night. (See story on the opposite page.)

We chased Jon Little too, but he didn’t stop.

There was a moment of silence.

We were all thinking about the story we had to tell – Kleedehn wins the gold É

Then what?

How did he catch Jon?

What was he thinking as he snuck up to him on the river?

Was the pinched nerve in his back bugging him?

What was he going to do with that four-ounces of gold?

Was he happy, or just tired?

It would have been nice to recognize the local musher who, with only one leg, is up against some strong odds.

It didn’t happen.

Frustrated and disappointed a few of us approached Brian Webb, the media relations guy who’d herded us away from the mushers with his arms outstretched.

“If they wanted to talk to you, they would have stopped,” said Webb.

“It’s not my decision, it’s the race marshal’s,” he added.

The marshal, Doug Grilliot, came out to field questions.

“We decided to give them some more privacy at the check-in,” he said.

Why? Had there been complaints?

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking,” said Grilliot.

“We’ve invited the mushers to talk to the media,” he said.

And did he tell Kleedehn we wanted to talk to him tonight?

“No,” said Grilliot.

Sleep deprived, Kleedehn had no idea why we weren’t there to congratulate him and shower him with questions, as has been the practice in the past.

“It’s not my decision, it’s the organization’s,” said Grilliot, sloughing off blame.

When Neff came in, the Quest decided they would stop him twice, once to check in and once to talk to us.

We got an interview.

But it was confusing for the dogs. They didn’t know why they were stopping after just a few metres, when warm straw was waiting across the river.

Less than an hour later, Webb approached us.

They were “working out the kinks,” he said.

Next time, if the musher was willing to talk to the media, we would be brought in while the musher was checking in.

“It’s a pathetic operation,” said an American journalist.

“I’m going to tell everyone not to come cover this race because they make it impossible to cover.

“I’m going to bed.”

It’s definitely not the same as it was in 2001, said the Koopmans, a couple of tourists who’d driven up from Calgary to follow the race to Dawson.

“In ‘01 we were able to walk through the dog yards and we even had a video camera over the shoulder of a vet watching them do surgery,” said Henry Koopman.

“Now we can’t even get close,” he said.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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