Small mushing team has big hopes

Veteran racer Rachel Kinvig and rookie Katharina Wirth make up Team Yukon’s entire dog mushing squad. The two will be the ones to watch when Whitehorse hosts the Arctic Winter Games for a sixth time this March.

Based on history, the Yukon’s surest bet for a gold medal at the upcoming Arctic Winter Games is from its smallest team.

Veteran racer Rachel Kinvig and rookie Katharina Wirth make up Team Yukon’s entire dog mushing squad. The two will be the ones to watch when Whitehorse hosts the Arctic Winter Games for a sixth time this March.

“It’s going to be here which is awesome,” said Kinvig. “And it’s just going to be a great time.”

Kinvig, who will race in the junior female division, brings a wealth of experience to the trails. The 15-year-old is already the most decorated musher in Arctic Games history, winning a total of six gold medals over her two previous appearances. In fact, she has never lost a race at the Arctic Games.

So does an unblemished win record and a hometown crowd place more pressure on her?

“No,” she said matter-of-factly, “but I’d like to not lose.”

[image2]

In addition to her half-dozen Ulus (Arctic Games medals), Kinvig has a world champion title to boot. Kinvig won her division at the Junior World Championship Sled Dog Race in Anchorage last February. She won all three of her races, setting a course record in the five-dog, six-mile class to become a world champion.

A few weeks later, she won gold in the four-dog and silver in the six-dog classes at the 2011 Junior North American Championship in Fairbanks.

In 2009, Kinvig was awarded the Junior Alaskan Sled Dog and Racing Association’s Sportsmanship Award. The same year, she took first place in the four-dog class at the Junior North American Championships.

A family passion, her older brother, Ben, ruled the junior male division at the 2010 Arctic Games, winning two golds and a silver. He has since retired from competition.

Kinvig, who is heading to Anchorage for a series of races this week, will choose her dog team when the Games get a little closer.

“I have to go to my races and I’ll pick my strongest dogs,” said Kinvig. “It depends on the weather too. If it’s hot I don’t want to take that dog because he overheats a lot. He’ll slow down and then he’ll start biting snow and will slow me down even more.

“I’ll pick my two leaders who pass well and go past obstacles well. It depends on stuff that happens through the year.”

Whitehorse’s Wirth has a need for speed. The 12-year-old also made Yukon’s speed skating team for the Arctic Games but eventually had to choose between the two sports.

“I like the speed of mushing a bit better,” said Wirth. “I’ve done speed skating competitively for longer so I wanted to try something new.”

Wirth, who will be competing in the juvenile division at the Games, races in the Yukon Brewing Twister Race Series and also won a division at the Carbon Hill Sled Dog race two years ago. She has an older team – Rachel’s former team, in fact – that’s she’s been running for the past four years.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Wirth of the Games. Kinvig’s father, Darren, who is also the team coach is lending her some dogs for both the four- and six-dog races.

“It’s going to be fun because this is the first time I’m representing somewhere,” said Wirth.

Kinvig’s father and mother, Leanne, are also chairing the dogsled event at the Arctic Games.

They plan to hold the races near their home in the Mount Lorne area, overlapping some of the trails used in the Carbon Hill races.

The Kinvigs want the event to be as spectator friendly as possible.

“Because it’s an international event, I’d like to see as many spectators as possible,” said Darren. “In order to do that, you can’t have them all in that parking lot – they watch a team leave and that’s it. Then the team comes back – that’s not good enough for the Arctic Winter Games as far as I’m concerned.

“So we’ve proposed to move it out on the golf course … and the teams will run past spectators and they’ll come back that way. So spectators can watch for a fair distance.”

What’s depressing for the Kinvigs is that this will be the second Arctic Games in a row in which only two Yukoners will race even though the team has four spots for athletes. They advertised the team trials, which took place at the start of the month, even explaining they would provide both dogs and sleds if necessary.

“But we got no responses,” said Darren. “We’re just trying to get kids in the Arctic Games and dog mushing.

“There are just no kids running dogs.”

The lack of interest also presents an ominous future for junior mushing, especially if the Kinvigs are no longer involved in the next Arctic Games.

“It’s not a sport that you can attract new juniors to. When juniors want to start, the parents realize the commitment involved,” he said.

“Most of the kids we’ve had prior were sons and daughters of dog mushing families, but they have all left. Now we have some kids whose parents run the (Yukon) Quest, but they don’t have to time to dedicate to their kids like we do. It’s hard for them to commit to a junior event and have their kids out to race at the Arctic Winter Games.

“I sure hope someone else takes over when we’re gone, but I haven’t seen that commitment from anybody else yet,” he added. “So in 2014, we probably won’t even field a dog team.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read