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Clever Move at Critical Race Moment Gave Victory

March 17, 2023 | 10:20 am

Petter Karlsson and his strong-running Alaskan huskies today took the clearest victory ever in the FL-1200 Finnmark Race and with that, they secured the World Championship gold medal for long distance sleddog racing. That happened after a clever move on-trail at the Ifjord Mountain when 250 kilometers remained of the race.

Petter Karlsson – winner of the Finnmark Race FL-1200 km/IFFS World Championship.
(Foto: Steinar Vik)

The Swedish children’s song “Världens bästa Karlsson” – the world’s best Karlsson – yelled out from the speakers downtown Alta when Petter Karlsson was interviewed on stage Friday morning. He passed the finish line at 08:47 a.m. The Swede and his dogs had then covered 1,200 kilometers across all of Finnmark, leading to his third victory in the Finnmark Race.

When the lead pack had covered some 1,000 kilometers of the 1,200 kilometers of the Finnmark Race, the competition was in reality decided. The Swede had made a somewhat surprising move on what is described as the most critical point of the race; the mountain  crossing at the foot of the Ifjord Mountain.

– I knew I took a chance when I chose to race non-stop from Varangerbotn to Neiden, Karlsson says, knowing fully well that most of his competitors chose to take a rest up on the mountain.

The Ifjord Mountian is for most Norwegians synonymous with the term “closed mountain roads”. Here, the FL-1200 mushers follow one of the most demanding parts of the entire trail. Storms and zero vision is quite the norm.

The clear victory did not appear to surprise the 47-year-old when asked about this on stage.

– Noooooooo, well, when you look at this team, it will be no surprise that the competition has fallen way behind, he said – sparking widespread laughter amongst the crowd in Alta.

Bandit the lead dog got the well-deserved laurels after finishing the race.
(Foto: Steinar Vik)

Petter Karlsson did not participate in any of the other long-distance races earlier this winter, however, that was not a conscious strategy.

– I contracted Corona this winter, so that made it hard to join any race, he said.

His closest competitor, Steinar Kristensen, headed out from Jotka moutain cabin – where he is the manager – around the same time as Karlsson was conducting victory interviews in Alta. Kristensen would then need another four hours to reach the finish line.

2nd place for Steinar Kristensen

Steinar Kristensen being cheered on towards the finish line in Alta. Foto: Ottavio Tomasini

Steinar Kristensen of Jotka mountain cabin, mushing for the local club in Alta, arrived at the finish line at 13:44 Friday afternoon. With that, he finished 2nd in the Finnmark Race and the IFSS World Championship.

Kristensen had spent 4 hours 49 minutes on the last leg from Jotka, compared to Karlsson’s 04:14. Kristensen has spent a total of 12 hours and 13 minutes from Karasjok to Alta, whereas the world champion used exactly 11 hours covering the same distance.

Steinar and his daughter Elisabeth are silver end gold medalists, respectively, in this year’s IFSS World Championship.

At the finish line, Kristensen was a.o. greeted by his daughter Elisabeth, who won gold in the Finnmark Race junior and IFSS World Championship.