WESTPORT native Colm Burns finished in a highly commendable sixth place in his category at the recent Canadian International Sleddog Championships in Quebec.
Representing Ireland in a sport for which we hold no national renown, the man from Mayneen completed 20 miles of sprinting with a sled and pack of dogs in less than two hours, and admits his performance surprised some of the more seasoned campaigners he met at the event.
“I met like-minded people from all over the world and they couldn’t figure out how we train,” he told The Mayo News last week. “Ireland has no major association with sleddog racing so they reckoned we had the luck of the Irish on our side.”
Colm met people who train sleddogs for a living and shared a log cabin with a competitor he used to watch on television and admire. The dogs he used in Canada wee not his own, and he had expected to be using a faster breed of Husky, but nonetheless he was delighted with his performance.
“The temperatures were about minus eleven degrees Celsius and on the first day we raced on pure ice which was very fast, and different than anything I could be used to. On the second day there was some fresh snow, but it really wasn’t any more difficult than what we are used to on forest trails in Ireland, in fact it was nice to be out in the sun,” he explained.
Now married and living with his wife and four children in Letterkenny, Colm, an electrician by trade, is also the Irish Mushing Champion, and competed in the last event of the Irish season in Galway at the weekend. Commanding dogs across terrain (usually snow/ice) is known as mushing, and Colm has set up his own club - North West Mushing - in recent times.
They practice on forest trails using dry-land mushing rigs (a type of low lying tricycle with no pedals) and the real skill is in commanding the dogs according to Colm.
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