Newest Quest champ sets sights on Iditarod

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

Only five mushers have ever attempted to run both the grueling Yukon Quest and the world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in the same year. And to date, only three have completed them both.

With a successful run from Anchorage to Nome, starting Saturday, Tim Osmar, of Clam Gulch, will become the fourth. Osmar, who not only completed the Quest but dominated it with a victory, will attempt to become the first back-to-back Quest/Iditarod champion in the history of the races.

"It would be nice to win them both, I guess that would be my ultimate goal," Osmar said in a phone interview from Anchorage earlier this week. "I hadn't really thought about it too much. (Doing both races in the same year is) just not something most people want to do. I guess it's a pretty cool deal."

Osmar, who is making his 16th appearance in the Iditarod, has consistently been a contender but never a champion, finishing six times in the top five, including his best-ever third-place finish in 1992.

"Every year I race is different," he said. "Sometimes I am right there with (the leaders), and sometimes I don't even come close to comparing. I am hoping to keep it really close."

Osmar is considering taking as many as six of his best dogs that raced the Quest onto the Iditarod Trail, mixing them with a young team that has been whipped into shape by Osmar's father, Dean, the 1984 Iditarod champion.

"It seems like we are probably going to have pretty good speed," Osmar said.

"We have enough speed, but it will become a matter of endurance and injuries. There are all kinds of factors involved."

The 34-year-old musher, coming off a win at the Quest and staring into the face of the Iditarod's challenge, said that he is feeling both excited and relaxed at the same time.

"I am getting pretty excited and am looking forward to the race, maybe more so than usual," Osmar said. "I am really relaxed though, too. I think that's what gave me the edge in the Quest, I stayed calm and relaxed throughout the race."

Taking on the grueling 1,000-mile pace of the Quest is challenge enough for most mushers, taking on the 1,100-mile test of the Iditarod a week later takes both hunger and desire.

"If anyone can do it, (Osmar) can," Iditarod veteran and Kasilof musher Jon Little said. "He's one of the toughest people you're ever gonna meet."

But, Osmar said, with so many good teams entered in the race, he's got his work cut out for him.

"Who is the team to beat? That is hard to say," he said. "(Jeff) King and (Doug) Swingley have to be right up there. Between King, Swingley and (Martin) Buser, they have the lead pretty much under control most years."

Osmar said that no matter the outcome, he believes that running both races is worthwhile.

"It is already worth it," he said. "I figure with doing both of these (races) that my high goal is the top-10, though my realistic goal is top-15. You never really know where you might finish, though. I might finish fifth or 25th."

Throughout his life, Osmar has run dogs. He said it has become such a factor in his life that he cannot imagine doing anything else.

"I really enjoy running dogs, always have," Osmar said. "It is the best thing I can think of doing.

"Racing keeps your blood flowing, keeps you healthy. Running a race is tough duty, but at the same time it is kind of like a vacation away from the paper work, the phone calls, the raising money and everything else you do to get ready all year."

Out of the Iditarod and the Quest, Osmar says he can't tell which one is more difficult -- at least, not yet.

"They are both challenging in their own ways," he said. "If you really want to know which one of the two is tougher, ask me in a couple of weeks."

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