Great success at an early age can pose a hurdle of sorts, raising expectations one may literally squander a lifetime chasing.
Imagine the pressure when those popular expectations call for retracing the steps of a parent whose own feats are legend. Though the mountain itself hasn't changed, a man whose father has gazed from its summit may stumble attempting what fortune and notions of honor combine to make a steeper personal climb.
Both realities have shadowed Tim Osmar's many accomplishments in Alaska's official state sport.
Few, if any, mushers have compiled an early record as impressive as the commercial fisherman from Clam Gulch. As a youngster, Osmar ran the Jr. Iditarod four times, winning his last three straight. Only weeks after turning 18 in 1985, he became the youngest musher to ever set forth on the Iditarod's 1,150-mile trail. The teen-age mushing phenom finished 13th, capturing Iditarod Rookie of the Year honors.
Impressive as the achievements seemed, the young musher was, in a sense, merely keeping pace with his father.
Dean Osmar's first Iditarod also resulted in a 13th-place finish.
Two years later, in 1984, Tim's father won the Iditarod on his second try and, essentially, retired from active competition for a decade.
Tim Osmar carried the family torch in grand fashion, collecting a pile of mid-distance racing crowns, before venturing upon the Yukon Quest Trail. Osmar was all of 19 as he mushed to a third-place finish in that 1986 Quest, picking up another Rookie of the Year trophy for the effort.
On the trail to Nome through the late 1980s and early 1990s, Osmar was a perennial contender. The era saw him record a half-dozen Top Five finishes, placing as high as third in the 1992 Iditarod.
The young musher forever destined to win the next Iditarod was also becoming a family man. Tim and his wife, Tawny, have four children, ranging in age from 13 to five. One can understand if sled dog racing, and those expectations from the world at large, at times took a backseat to more pressing household concerns.
Following a come-from-behind, fourth-place finish in 1996, Osmar's Iditarod teams appeared less daunting. He continued to place "in the money," but lost his grip on the front pack. The Old Man's mountain loomed ever steeper. Prospects of standing on that lofty champion's summit, once assured for Tim Osmar, became subject to chance, hostage to an injurious slip or misstep by those dogs pulling the sled.
Taking stock of diminishing returns, the now-seasoned fisherman pulled his nets.
Returning to the Quest Trail of his youth, Tim Osmar ... found redemption waiting upon Eagle Summit, the fearsome climb that witnessed his team's chief rival, Dave Sawatzky, falter and retreat. It was there on the mountain that Osmar finally pulled away, sealing victory in the punishing 1,000-mile race his father never attempted.
The Quest's new champ isn't resting on his laurels.
Harnessed to a handful of those Quest dogs, Tim Osmar plans to continue up the trail in the Iditarod. At this point, he's rolling onward toward a prize so ambitious the musher's very attempt at claiming it surpasses all expectations.
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