August 06, 2006

Iditarod Legend Susan Butcher

Susan Butcher lost her battle to cancer Saturday at the age of 51.
A fierce competitor, Susan was a dominate force in Iditarod racing for 15 years. She was first to cross under the burled arch in Nome 4 times, placed 2nd 4 times, and won the race in three consecutivce years. A feat unmatched in the history of the race. Her performance lead to the saying "Alaska... Where men are men, and women win the Iditarod."
She also mushed a team of dogs to the top of Mt. Mckinley with the Father of the Iditarod, Joe Redington in 1979
She wasn't the first women to win the race. Her team was stomped by a moose and she was forced to withdraw, the year that Libby Riddels went on to earn that title. But her battles thoughout the 1980s and early 90's with nemisis and 5 time champion Rick Swenson were reminisent of Ali- Frazier, with fans on both sides debating who was the better musher.
I will always remember the year,Susan, after breaking trail thoughout the night with trailmate DeeDee Jonrowe, was met by reporters in the ghosttown of Iditarod. She was angry that the pack of men mushers, Swenson included, had laid back all the way and let the two women break trail. Swenson later grinningly replied, if they were in such a hurry to get to Iditarod that was their problem.
After winnng his 5th Iditarod Swnson proclaimed it would take 6 wins to better him now. A remark clearly aimed at Butcher.
So it went year after year, making some of the most memorable moments of the races storied history.
Susan gave up competitive mushing to dedicate herself to being a mom but she never gave up her love for her dogs and the race.
Alaskan musician Hobo Jim sings a song about Alaska entitled " Where Legends Are Born." Susan will be remembered as one of those legends.

Anchorage Daily News
Hobo Jim
Joe Redington Sr.

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