Organizers of February's American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race today announced the winners in their essay contest to determine which two participants would re-enact the 801-year-old inspiration for the race.
Scheduled for Feb. 24, the 51-kilometer Nordic skiing marathon from Cable to Hayward in northern Wisconsin traces its roots to the early 13th-century rescue of Norway's heir to the throne, baby Prince Haakon, by two heroic cross-country skiers who carried him to safety during a time of civil war. The baby prince would survive to become one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history, bringing a period of stability during his reign.
The father-and-son team of Phillip and Michael Schaefer are the winning essayists. They will ski this year's Birkie on wooden skis, dressed in apparel resembling early 13th-century garb. The elder Schaefer is a project manager for Siemens Water Technology near Wausau, and will be skiing his 30th Birkie; Michael is a Cleveland physician who specializes in sports medicine and will be skiing his 10th.
Their winning essay includes the duo's Top 10 qualifications to serve as heroic Birkie Warriors:
10. We are strong, tall, handsome and almost Norwegian looking (we think!).
9. We would look great in the outfits.
8. When we started skiing we only had wooden skis and some of the outfits looked like they were from the Middle Ages.
7. We still have the old wooden skis and cans of pine tar, so we are prepared.
6. Dad completed a Birkie with one ski tip "repaired" with duct tape.
5. I can provide my own Norwegian looking "baby" whose 3rd birthday is Birkie Saturday (I almost missed her birth, but skiing the Birkie that year was worth the risk).
4. It wouldn't hurt to have another medical Dr. on the trail (I practice sports medicine).
3. We love to talk with people and spread our enthusiasm for the Birkie. I say that Dad practices "skivangelism."
2. Our friends and relatives know that if they happen to die right before Birkie weekend, the funeral will have to wait.
1. WE CONSIDER BIRKIE WEEKEND TO BE A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY AND THE TRIP TO HAYWARD TO BE A PILGRIMAGE!
What better Warriors could there be than the two of us?
Michael Schaefer, M.D.
Phillip Schaefer, Birchlegger