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44th Birkebeiner Begins Thursday In Hayward

American Birkebeiner Foundation

The 44th American Birkebeiner is underway in Hayward, heading toward cross-country racing this weekend involving skiers from 49 states and 36 nations. Only Oklahoma isn't represented among those registered.

The American Birkebeiner is a nearly 35-mile cross-country ski marathon that traverses its way through the Hayward and Cable areas on the Birkie Trail. Many skiers from this area compete as well as others attend.

"Birkie" spokesperson Nancy Knutson says the two American women cross-country skiers who shocked the winter Olympics Wednesday, Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, becoming the first Americans to win an Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, have strong ties to the 'Birkie'...

"....Jessie Diggins is a Birke Ambassador, she's been at the Birkie before. Kikkan Randall was our official starter two years ago, so they're fans of northwestern Wisconsin and the Birkie and we couldn't be more proud...."

Knutson says there are lots of competitors...

"...there are about 10,000 combined(in two races). With all our other events, there will be about 13,000 skiers who will travel across the American Birkebeiner International Bridge this year...."

The bridge enables participants to cross a four-lane state highway safely.

The vision of Tony Wise, 34 men and one woman competed the first year in 1973. They raced for 50 miles from the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable. One original founding skier, Ernie St. Germaine, has skied every race since its inception.

The link to the event is at www.birkie.com

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