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Competition was a way of life for Detroit speed skater

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Jeanne (Robinson) Omelenchuk's speed skating victory in the 1948 Detroit News City Championships was all it took to give the 17-year-old senior from Detroit's Southeastern High School the racing bug.

"It was a night meet under the lights on Belle Isle and the trophy was about six inches high," she recalls. "Nothing can beat the excitement I felt that day when I won my first race."

From that point on she set out to make herself a champion by hard training and tough determination. It paid off with a 43-year speed skating career full of national, North American and senior women titles as well as three Olympic berths. She won more titles than any other speed skater in the history of the sport in Detroit.

It was not an easy career. Despite her victory in the city championships the year before, at 18 she was only an average skater. Defeat followed defeat. "I'll make it someday," she told her coach. In 1952 she placed second in a major competition and she was on her way to becoming a champion.

Her first national crown was not in skating, however, but in cycling.

She started cycling because other skaters recommended it as a way to keep in form when off the ice. The two sports go together because they use the same muscles.   more...

 



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Sailing on Lake St. Clair's icy winter winds

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When snow blankets the Michigan landscape and the temperature dips well below freezing, ordinary sailors huddle before a roaring fire while ice sailors head for the frozen waters of Lake St. Clair. Ice boaters spirits soar as the mercury plunges.

      Ice boating or ice yachting, which is known as the fastest of all winter sports, originated more than 4,000 years ago in northern Europe. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, houses relics indicating that the first ice boat runners may have been made from bones. Up until the middle of the 18th century, sail-carrying boxes mounted on skates transported cargo and passengers along the frozen canals of Holland. During the American Revolution, European-style ice boats appeared on the Hudson River. And in Michigan lumber camps at the turn of the century, ice boat races entertained lumberjacks cutting the boredom of harsh Michigan winters.   more...

 



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International Order of the Blue Gavel

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The International Order of the Blue Gavel is a world-wide organization which began in 1953 made up of over 4,000 Past Commodores of qualified yacht clubs striving to preserve the proven traditions, customs and ethics of yachting so that they may not be lost to those yet to come.

Chapters and Districts are currently located in Canada, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We have members in Australia, Japan, Mexico, the Cook Islands, the Marianas, the Marshall Islands and Singapore. In addition, we have many individual members throughout the world.   more...

 



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Musher overwhelmed by local support

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photo: localHe was ready for most of the challenges he faced along the 1,049 miles of the Iditarod, but Grand Haven's Jim Conner was unprepared for the support he received from the Tri-Cities.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Conner, who is now back to the daily grind after finishing the Iditarod sled dog race on March 20 in 67th place. "I've gotten over 100 letters from school kids, and they're still coming in every day. I'm still getting more and more."   more...

 

 

 

 



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HARD WINTER

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  The Lake Erie Ice Cover is of great interest to those of us who sail out of the Buffalo area. It also affects us here in Youngstown, as we can't put moorings or docks out until the ice is finished coming down the Lower Niagara River. As of March 22 there were 1975 square miles of ice remaining in Lake Erie, and the ice boom across the mouth of the Upper Niagara can't be removed until there is less than 250 square miles. So there is no way the boom will come out by the normally scheduled April 1 date. A really interesting website which shows the ice cover of various bodies of water is www.natice.noaa.gov. Find the box on the left side of the home page marked products, then go to the drop down box for ice charts, then go to Great Lakes. Click on Lake Erie (or any other Lake) and you can see the latest percentage of ice cover.  more...      Great Lakes Ice Chart


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Chasing Frozen Waterfalls

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Sir Paul McCartney once wrote and recorded a song about chasing waterfalls. I doubt if he had the UP of Michigan in mind, but around Munising, March and early April is a great time to go chasing frozen waterfalls. The Munising area is a winter wonderland for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In addition to three of the UP's best-groomed trail systems - Valley Spur, McKeever Hills and Pictured Rocks - there is an abundance of natural wintertime attractions that are fairly easily accessible in the backcountry.   more...

 



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Dogged determination marks 2004 Iditarod

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Mitch Seavey leaving White MountainIn a year when most of the talk was about new devices and innovations on the Iditarod Trail, the winning edge came down to old-fashioned hard work and smart decisions by an individual musher. Mitch Seavey held his team of well-trained, ultra-conditioned athletes to a carefully crafted game plan, one that kept him out of the lead until it mattered.   more...

 

 



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Grand Haven musher places 67th at Iditarod

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Grand Haven's Jim Conner completed the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday.

Conner, who was competing in his first Iditarod, finished in 67th place with a time of 13 days, 4 hours, 14 minutes, 36 seconds.

Conner, 34, became interested in the Iditarod after mushing with his father-in-law, Al Hardman, an Iditarod veteran. Hardman, 61, of Ludington, finished in 59th place with a time of 12:8:43:24.   more...

 



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Rockin' in the Free(skiing) World

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extreme skiing, ColoradoOver 170 of the world's best—and craziest—athletes tested their mettle at Crested Butte's 2004 Saab U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships last month (February 25 through 28), each hoping to beat the competition with hair-raising runs down the mountain's steep and technical Extreme Limits terrain.

Skiers were required to execute lines down the normally closed area known as The Hourglass, a rocky section nestled against a triangle of heavily-wooded cliffs.    more...

 

 

 



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Doug Swingley Drops Out of Iditarod After Freezing His Corneas

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March 12, 2004 Four-time Iditarod champion Doug Swingley (see Outside's March 2001 story, "Dog Is My Copilot") dropped out of this year's race Wednesday morning, less than halfway through the 1,150-mile course, when his corneas became frozen during a windy, goggle-less descent of the treacherous Dalzell Gorge.

Swingley told an Associated Press reporter that he had taken off his goggles because they were fogging up, and that soon he found himself "blind in one eye." By the time Swingley slid into Rohn (at the bottom of the Gorge), his vision was so cloudy that he could only see a blur, reported Jon Little of
CabelasIditarod.com.
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Behind the Fall Line

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Everest snowboarding imageOutside's March 2004 article "Facing the Fall Line" chronicles big-mountain snowboarder Steven Koch's quest to become the first to summit Everest and then set a never-before-attempted line down its treacherous North Face. Accompanying Koch on the Everest expedition was mountaineer-photographer Jimmy Chin, who captured the powerful images that accompanied the article.   more...

 

 




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Seavey is 32nd Iditarod champion

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Mitch Seavey and his leader Zebra in Nome

A boyhood dream to one day win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race came true Tuesday for Mitch Seavey.

The musher with roots as deep as the Iditarod itself emerged from amid the pop of flashbulbs as a crowd lining Front Street parted to make way for his team. The team led by 8-year-old Tread and 3-year-old Zebra trotted up a snow ramp to the famed burled arch, earning Seavey the title of champion of the 32nd Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, with a time of 9 days, 12 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

Seavey worked the crowd, something new among Iditarod champions, walking away from the arch and down to the metal fence, keeping people out of the winner's chute. He shook hands as people yelled, "Way to go Mitch!"

He also generated the biggest applause when he told an interviewer, "I think everyone is happy to have an Alaskan boy…," only to have the crowd's sudden roar drown out the rest of what he had to say. Last year, Norway's Robert Sorlie won the Iditarod, the first time the trophy has been won by someone from outside the United States.   more...

 



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Rumors and sightings

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Backen continues his march to Nome. Photo by Jeff Schutlz
The race most definitely is still on. The only question late Sunday morning is, where are those front-runners? People in Unalakleet were scanning the horizon, standing on tiptoes from the giant wind-drifts all morning.

Optimists awoke at 4:30 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the 2004 Iditarod leader. One by one, they popped their heads into the door of this village's bingo hall, which serves as the checkpoint.   more...







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Four-time champion Doug Swingley back in 2004 Iditarod

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Four-time Iditarod champion Doug Swingley must be one of the most practical people on the planet.

When asked why, at age 50, he is still willing to hang onto the back of a sled for more than 1,000 bumpy miles from Anchorage to Nome, his answer was quick and to the point.

“I need a new pickup truck. I am tired of these old pickups falling apart,” Swingley said, from his home in Lincoln, Mont., where he was busy making gourmet shrimp and garlic dishes to eat along the trail.

Eighty-seven mushers are signed up for the 2004 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to start from downtown Anchorage on March 6. They’ll come from Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, as well as nine other countries, including Germany, Italy and Norway.

The Iditarod is held each year to commemorate a 1925 dash to Nome in which sled dogs and mushers delivered lifesaving diphtheria serum to the historic Gold Rush town.

In addition to more than a half-million dollars in prize money earned since competing as a rookie in 1992, Swingley has won four brand new pickup trucks -- one for each time he crossed the finish line first. He won in 1995, and then came back to dominate the race in 1999, 2000 and 2001. His prize money totals $501,615.   more...

 



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And the winner is… to be decided in nine days

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One of the beautiful things about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is this simple fact: Nobody knows what will happen. Nobody. Who's going to win? Who has the strategy, the training, the right technology and good fortune falling in their favor?

There is only one way to answer to that question. And that is, unleash this crazy celebration of canine and human spirit, with all of its drama, goofiness, heartbreak and joy. One of the thrills of the Iditarod is watching this thing slowly unfold over the course of nine to 15 days.

That said, I don't mind putting my neck out and making a few educated guesses. I won't be picking a winner. There are just too many variables. A few sick dogs or a sick musher (a nasty flu bug is hammering part of Alaska this year) and the best laid plans will go awry. But I feel comfortable predicting that one of six mushers will win this race, and they are names that fans are quite familiar with.   more...

 



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