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Thomas Waerner, of Norway, arrives in Nome, Alaska, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

WINTER SPORTS

Norwegian musher achieves boyhood dream, wins Iditarod

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — As a young boy growing up in Norway, Thomas Waerner spent idle hours thinking long and hard about two different kinds of iconic American modes of transportation: muscle cars and the sled dogs in the Iditarod.

Waerner, 47, made one of those dreams reality on Wednesday, winning the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska. He took a commanding lead in the late stages of the race and held a five-hour advantage over the next closest musher, three-time champion Mitch Seavey.

“This is awesome,” Waerner said after winning the race. “This is something special.”

Waerner took his dog team over mountain ranges, on the frozen Yukon River and across treacherous Bering Sea ice to the finish line on Nome’s main street in 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds.

The race started March 8 north of Anchorage and was one of the few sporting events in the U.S. that wasn’t canceled because of the new coronavirus. The Iditarod encouraged fans not to travel to Nome for the finish as the city closed public buildings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Events like the musher’s banquet were postponed.

SOCCER

Ex-MLS MVP has knee surgery

Atlanta United star and former MLS MVP Josef Martinez underwent surgery on his right knee Wednesday, more than two weeks after he tore the ACL during the league-opening match at Nashville.

Martinez posted an update on his Instagram page after the operation at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The striker was smiling and giving a thumbs-up as he posed in his bed alongside one of his physicians, Dr. Volker Musahl.

Martinez was injured Feb. 29 in a 2-1 victory over Nashville to open the Major League Soccer season. He is expected to be out for much of he year, though the season is on hold because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

AUTO RACING

Earnhardt, Busch sign on for NASCAR esports series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and other NASCAR drivers have signed on to race in an exhibition esports series while their cars are kept off the tracks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

NASCAR and iRacing announced the formation of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series on Tuesday night, trying to give fans alternative viewing with the NASCAR season on hold until at least May 3.

The multi-week series will start Sunday with a virtual competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Remaining races and broadcast details are expected to be announced at a later date.

Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell will also be among those competing. A one-off simulation event was held last weekend after a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was postponed. Josh Williams, spotter for Ryan Blaney, won that race, which also featured Earnhardt and Hamlin.

“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’S vice president of racing development. “Our long-time partners at iRacing offer an incredible product and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”

BASEBALL

Ex-Giant treated for cancer

Former Giants outfielder Connor Joe, who emerged from obscurity to become San Francisco’s Opening Day left fielder last year, is being treated for testicular cancer.

Joe, a former Rule 5 acquisition who lasted just eight games with the Giants before being returned to the Dodgers, announced on Instagram he underwent surgery Tuesday and his prognosis for a full recovery is good.

The 27-year-old Joe left Dodgers camp last month for what was termed “personal reasons,” but he’s now revealing on social media his cancer was caught early and it’s curable.

Tigers’ prospect has surgery

Left-hander Joey Wentz, a prospect in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, had surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.

New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek operated on Wentz on Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Florida. Detroit said Wednesday that Wentz is expected to return in 14-16 months.

The 22-year-old Wentz was a non-roster invitee at big league spring training this year. He is the No. 8 prospect in the Detroit organization, according to rankings on mlb.com.

FOOTBALL

Former 49ers coach dead at 88

Longtime San Francisco 49ers coach and executive Bill McPherson has died at the age of 88.

The 49ers said Mr. McPherson died Tuesday.

Mr. McPherson spent 20 seasons as a defensive assistant for the 49ers from 1979-98, helping the franchise win five Super Bowl titles. He was hired in coach Bill Walsh‘s first season with the team and was defensive coordinator from 1989-93 under coach George Seifert.

Mr. McPherson later worked as the team’s director of pro personnel from 1999-2002 and a personnel consultant from 2003-05. He also coached one season with the Philadelphia Eagles and in college for his alma mater Santa Clara and UCLA.

— From wire reports

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