Chukchi Musher with Alaskan Ties Carries the Olympic Torch

Nov 14, 2013

Mikhail Telpin carries the Olympic torch through the streets of Anadyr, the capital of Russia's Chukotkan region.
Credit / Racing Beringia

Fairbanks, AK - The Olympic flame traveled by dogsled through the capital of Chukotka in Russia earlier this week. The torch was carried by Russian musher Mikhail Telpin, who has run his traditional Chukchi sled dogs in both of Alaska’s longest sled dog races.

A thick crowd lined the streets of Anadyr to cheer for musher Mikhail Telpin and his six round fluffy sled dogs on Monday as they carried the Olympic torch through Chukotka’s capital. [sound] Telpin and his lead dogs Ayvacal and Bumpa completed an arduous Red Lantern run of Yukon Quest back in 2012. This past March, he drove his team under Nome’s burled arch to finish a rookie run of the Iditarod. His travels in Alaska are part of an education program called Racing Beringia. Mille Porsild is the executive director. “Mikhail is the most accomplished dog musher in all of Russia," she says.  "He’s a four time winner in the most challenging race on the Eurasian continent and then he is the only Russian musher to have completed both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.”

Telpin comes from a remote village 1000 miles north of Anadyr. Travel to and from the region’s capital is difficult, so he was only able to bring his two lead dogs. In Anadyr, he borrowed four other dogs for his team. Porsild says he spent a few weeks training them together for the torch run.

“He says the dogs ran as fast as he had ever seen them run before.  Like he'd never run that fast in any races in Chukotka, of Kamchatka or Alaska.  He basically had to hold the break on the entire time. They had the traditional Russian head-cover around their necks and he said they looked very cute and really felt the dogs were just perfect in their performance.”

Five torch bearers were selected to represent the different regions of Chukotka. Porsild says members of the native community where Telpin lives have been celebrating since he was chosen. “For Mikhail, he used very strong words about the pride that he felt," she says.  "This story of the Olympic flame, that will be a story that will be significant to him and his big family and to his children and they will pass it on to their children as well and he’s very honored.” The Olympic flame is set to reach Sochi for opening ceremonies February 7th. By the time it arrives, it will have been the longest-ever torch relay in Olympic history.