Iditarod 2019: New year, same Joar Leifseth Ulsom

2018 Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom at his kennel in Willow, Alaska.

WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - The start of the 47th Iditarod is just days away, and that means the to-do list is growing for mushers and their team. That doesn’t seem to bother defending Iditarod Champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, whether he’s in the middle of the Last Great Race or at his kennel in Willow, his demeanor is calm and collected.

"It's been going good, I'm happy,” said Ulsom at his kennel in Willow earlier this week.

Not much has changed for the 32-year-old musher since his victory in Nome last March.

"Been a little different; been a lot of fun. I've been enjoying it,” said Ulsom. “People have been super nice. It's been awesome."

The Norwegian musher threw out the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game last summer, and made a trip back home where he said he spoke to schools about mushing.

He's not spending too much time dwelling on last year’s Iditarod win, and still hasn’t found the right place to put his Joe Redington, Sr. trophy.

"It's been sitting on the kitchen counter since I got it, until a couple of weeks ago, and we put it down on the floor," said Ulsom. "Maybe after this year’s race I'll make something to put it on."

Instead of wasting his energy on trivial things like a trophy case, he’s been focused on winning another Iditarod.

“Robert Sørlie told me, the second time was a lot sweeter then the first time he won it," said Ulsom of his fellow countryman, a two-time champion and the only other Norwegian to have won the Iditarod.

Keeping his mind on mushing is a strategy that seems to be working for Ulsom, who's never finished worse than seventh in the Iditarod. Despite all of his success, he says another top-10 finish would be fine with him in 2019.

Joar Leithseth Ulsom will wear bib No. 28 on the trail for the 2019 race.

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