Photo Credit: Tom Dubois via Pexels

The South African national anthem was played as Gerhardt Thiart crossed the finish line of the 2023 Idiatrod sled dog race in Alaska.


Anchorage, Alaska (22 March 2023) – Gerhardt Thiart became the first South African to finish the Iditarod this year and at his request, they played the South African national anthem for him once he crossed the finish line. The Iditarod is a sled dog race that takes place in Alaska, USA.

This year marked the 51st edition of the Iditarod, an annual sled dog race in the U.S. state of Alaska. The race sees a musher take on nearly 1,600km through the frozen wilderness from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. The race should take between 9 and 10 days to complete.

Gerhardt went up against 32 competitors this year wearing bib number 22. He was classed as a Rookie and was the only South African to take part in the race.

Gerhardt and his wife AJ moved to Alaska in 2020 but their paths crossed the sledding sport many years before. The couple fell in love with the Siberian breed while living in Cape Town in 2002. They met André and Natalie van der Merwe who were breeders. Knowing the breed’s desire to be a working dog, they started sledding with their own dogs while in Cape Town.

Over the years, Gerhardt heard about the Iditarod and wanted to take part. They moved to the USA in 2010 to be handlers for a sled dog kennel in Michigan. They worked hard towards getting their Green Cards which they succeeded with in 2020.

Making the move to Alaska in 2020 opened the doors for Gerhardt and his dream of competing in the Iditarod. He partnered with his mentor and coach Mitch Seavey that winter and quickly started competing in the qualifying races needed to enter the Iditarod.

Finally, after years of hard work, Gerhardt was able to take part in the race in 2022. Sadly, he ended his race early with a broken ankle. Determined to make it, he signed up for the 2023 season and it has been a success!

While being in the frozen Alaskan wilderness is far removed from sunny South Africa, Gerhardt wanted to honour his home country and asked that they play the South African national anthem when he crossed the finish line. He finished his race in 11d 21h 0m 26s.

Gerhardt has been committed to raising funds and awareness for wildlife conservation in South Africa. He founded the GAT Foundation, and partnered with TUSK to help wildlife rangers and their K9s. As they say, it’s “For Dogs… By Dogs”. Every sponsored dog in the race, would help make a difference to a ranger’s life.

Take a look at his happy moment below shared by close friends André and Natalie van der Merwe.

Sources: Snowdrift SiberiansIditarod
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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