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Westport man bound for sled-dog world cup

Colm Burns is pictured in training with his huskies at his home near Letterkenny.

Westport man bound for sleddog world cup

Neill O’Neill

AS bad as the weather can be in the west of Ireland, it doesn’t seem likely that we could produce an international competitor for the sport of Dog Sledding, but don’t tell that to local man Colm Burns, who touches down in Quebec Canada this morning (Tuesday), to participate in the Canadian International Sleddog Championships.
Westport and Mayo have produced champions and entrants in many sports over the years, but the man from Mayneen must surely be breaking new ground, with a passion he discovered somewhat by accident.
Now married and living with his wife and four children in Letterkenny, Colm, an electrician by trade, is also the Irish Mushing Champion, and was selected by The Irish Federation of Sleddog Sports to go to Daaquam in Canada to compete in the Canadian International Sleddog Championships next 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. In Canada, he will be driving eight dogs over frozen lakes and rivers, wide open flats and snow draped forests in a sprint, and at temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday from Dublin Airport, Colm explained that he first got into the sport after he began breeding husky dogs ten years ago and had problems exercising them. “I used to go out on the bike with two of them and they would pull me around the forest trails, so when I got more dogs I got a dry-land mushing rig and have never looked back really,” he said. “We compete on these [rigs] in Ireland and it’s very similar to being on ice. You have to command the dogs and it is a huge adrenaline rush. I have Siberian and Alaskan Huskies and I train dogs for other people, and it is is an addictive high octane sport once you get into it.”Colm and his dogs have been regular visitors to Westport whilst he has been on his way to compete in Galway and around Ireland, and according to his mother Ann, his nephews and nieces have been thrilled when he has brought them on runs with him commanding the team of dogs.
Colm said  that he was looking forward to representing Ireland in Canada, and expressed thanks to his sponsors - Sled Dogs Ireland and Connolly’s Red Mills Dog Foods. He also sent regards to his mother and siblings, Thomas David, Michelle, Laura and extended family in Westport, and his many friends.

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