FAIRBANKS - Doug Swingley may have retired from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race last year, but not from competitive mushing.
The four-time Iditarod champion is taking on a new challenge: the Yukon Quest.
On Monday, Swingley became the 20th musher to enter the 2003 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
In March, Swingley stunned opposing mushers when he announced his retirement from the Iditarod after a couple days on the trail.
"This is my victory lap. I'm retiring from competitive racing," Swingley said at the time. "You won't see me up front anymore. I've done what I set out to do. Maybe next year I'll run the Quest or something like that."
Swingley's wife, Melanie Sherilla, confirmed his defection to the 1,000-mile race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Fairbanks when contacted by phone Monday, but said Swingley wasn't available for interviews until later.
In his application for the Quest, the Lincoln, Mont., musher said he was tired of the Iditarod and wanted to "see some new country," the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The Quest begins Feb. 9.
Last year, talk before the Iditarod centered on whether Swingley could match Rick Swenson's record five wins. Leading up to the race Swingley did little to suggest that it might be his final Iditarod.
When he was 44th after the first full day of racing he hinted that he was just sandbagging, saying, "Patience has always been my greatest virtue." A day later he announced he would retire from the Iditarod, saying he would relax and take time to experience parts of the race he was unable to enjoy while being a front-runner.
Swingley finished 40th in a time of 13 days, 5 hours, 24 minutes and 5 seconds. The time was more than four days slower than his fastest time, set in 2000, and nearly two days slower than the time he had while placing ninth in 1992 in his first of 10 Iditarod races. Swingley's 2000 Iditarod time of 9:00:58 was the race record until Martin Buser of Big Lake broke the mark last year with an 8:22:46.
Entries for the 20th anniversary Yukon Quest race will be accepted until midnight on Dec. 15.
Juneau musher Deborah Bicknell has announced plans to enter the 2003 Yukon Quest, but has yet to officially enter the race. Her Web site, http://www.deborahsyukonquest.net, announces plan for a September fund-raiser for the 2003 race. Bicknell won the Red Lantern Award as the race's last finisher in 2000 and was forced to scratch last year.
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