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CNN Today

Alaskan Iditarod Set to Begin Tomorrow

Aired March 2, 2001 - 2:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a grueling race and it begins tomorrow: the Iditarod, an 1,100 mile dogsled race, which begins in Anchorage. For nearly two weeks, 68 dogsled teams will brave the elements, running from Anchorage across the Alaskan wilderness to the finish line in Nome.

And how about this plum assignment? We've sent Lilian Kim there to cover it for us.

Lilian, tough work up there. Hi.

(CROSSTALK)

LILIAN KIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie.

All of Alaska is eagerly anticipated the start of the race. The Iditarod is the big event for Alaska. And the true stars of the race are, of course, the dogs. Most are Alaskan huskies, a breed that can run incredible distances at high speed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): A million-three-hundred-thousand steps. That's what lies ahead for dogs racing in the Iditarod.

One of them is Fisher, a seven-time veteran, ready to go again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has so much experience that he can -- he can even teach even an old dog some new tricks, huh?

KIM: Fisher is one of 1,000 dogs taking part in the 1,100-mile race.

Born and bred to run, these Alaskan huskies are the super athletes of the canine world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, born to run, it's -- it's not just only a song, but it's a true statement for our dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no other creature, that can do it without wings that can do it, that could cover that much ground.

KIM: Before they take off, dogs must go through a complete mandatory checkup. Veterinarians assess their fitness using a battery of high-tech tests, including a heart-rhythm analysis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These tests that we've been doing on these dogs have helped to keep them healthy out there. And perhaps there has been a dog or two that has not gone on the race because they didn't seem like they could be up to the challenge.

KIM: Each team will be on a run/rest cycle that continues for more than a week, a canine's equivalent to a marathon.

But these athletes are ready to go, maybe too ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're just so wound up right now. They want to go just as fast as they can. It probably will take them 200 to 250 miles or so to settle into a routine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KIM: There is a $550,000 purse. The winner will take home nearly $68,000, a truck and, of course, bragging rights for the entire year. The race from Anchorage to Nome begins here tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. local time.

Reporting live from Anchorage, Alaska, I'm Lilian Kim -- Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: And are you going along the way at all, Lilian?

KIM: Well, actually, it is such deep Alaskan wilderness that it is very difficult to access for the media. We will just have to wait until they finish up in Nome.

ALLEN: OK, hopefully, there will be -- have like a camera on the dogs. They can do that, can't they?

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Sounds like a lame excuse to me. Mush, you huskies.

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