King started Monday with a lead over close challenger Aliy Zirkle,
a two-time runner-up seeking to become the first woman to win in
more than a decade, as they entered the home stretch of the
1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race through the Alaska tundra.
With just under four miles from the final checkpoint in Safety,
Alaska, King reported that winds became so severe that he was having
difficulty navigating the trail, officials said.
After about two and one half hours, King, 58, of Denali, Alaska,
sought help in getting his dog team to the Safety checkpoint,
With King out of the race, which could be over on Tuesday, former
champion Dallas Seavey has emerged as a front-runner with the
44-year-old Zirkle, of Two Rivers, Alaska. Not far behind is
defending champion Mitch Seavey, Dallas' father.
The punishing round-the-clock marathon commemorates a rescue mission
that carried diphtheria serum by sled-dog relay to Nome in 1925.
While most competitors are from Alaska, the race has drawn entrants
from as far away as Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Sweden
The snow-blowing winds clamped down late on Monday evening. Had King
held on, he would have been the first person to win a fifth title in
the race's 42-year history.
The winds covering that trail ranged from 15 miles to 25 miles per
hour (25 km to 40 km per hour) with gusts reaching about 40 mph,
according to the National Weather Service.
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Temperatures ranged from 2 to minus -7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus
16.7 Celsius to minus 21.7 C), it said.
However, in Nome, former Iditarod champion and race analyst Joe
Runyan, posted on the endurance race's website that winds reached
as high as 65 miles per hour, blowing King's sled and team off the
trail and into driftwood.
King was "wadded up in the drift for about an hour and a half," said
Runyan, who has been tracking the race that began March 2 with 69
teams in Willow, Alaska, about 50 miles (80 km( north of Anchorage,
the state's largest city.
"The winds into Nome are legendary and life-threatening," Runyan
wrote just before midnight local time, adding that weather had been
mild for the last eight days but had shifted over the previous six
(Editing by Eric M. Johnson and W. Simon)
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