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Birkie Warriors & Inga Contest Winners Announced - Birkie.com

12/29/2011, 10:53am CST
By Susan Kendrick

Congratulations to Barry Knapp, Darald Bothun, and Kristin Bothun

The search is over! The three cross country skiers who will re-enact an 800-year-old legend at this year's 2012 American Birkebeiner on February 25--and that inspired the creation of this ski race--have been determined.

Congratulations to Barry Knapp, Darald Bothun, and Kristin Bothun!

These three Birkie enthusiasts will take on the roles of the two Warriors and Inga at this year's 39th annual American Birkebeiner. Long-time friends, Barry Knapp and Darald Bothun, of Rochester, MN, will assume the roles of Torstein and Skervald, the Birkebeiner warriors who rescued Prince Haakon during the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. Kristin Bothun, Darald's daugher, of Mankato, MN, will ski as Inga from Varteig, mother of Prince Haakon.

"We three feel very privileged to have been chosen as the Birkie Warriors and Inga and to carry on the tradition of the American Birkebeiner," said Darald Bothun. "Having my long time friend, Barry as a partner in this adventure and my daughter, Kristin, as Inga just adds to the anticipation and excitement of the weekend. Thank you for the opportunity to honor the heritage of this piece of history!"

Up for the Challenge

The Contest winners were carefully selected by judges who know exactly what it takes to ski 54 kilometers in full Warrior and Inga costumes while encouraging their fellow skiers along the trail. Those judges are none other than the winners of past contests. This year's esteemed judges were the Birkie's 2011 Warriors and Inga: Gale Otterholt, Marv Franson, and Gretchen Lindgren; and the 2010 Warriors and Inga: Husband-and-wife team, David Nelson and Josie Nelson, and David's brother, Grant Nelson.

Excerpts from the Winning Applications

Warrior team and Inga applicants in the Birkie's annual Warrior & Inga Contest are both required to submit an essay that tells why they would be the best Birkie choices. Entries must show passion, ability, a sense of tradition, and most importantly, demonstrate that they are capable of skiing the 54-kilometer distance on wooden classic skis while wearing costumes, carrying weapons of the era. The Warriors ski the entire Birkie. Inga may choose to ski the Birkie or shift to the Kortelopet to encourage skiers on that race course. She would then rejoin the Warriors for the final finish up Hayward's Main Street.

The Bothun and Knapp trio rose to the top as very good picks based on their applications:

Birkie Warrior Capability

"As best friends, we’ve celebrated Nordic skiing for most of our 64 years. We are both athletically able to complete the Birkie on wooden skis and wearing the warrior costumes. Darald has completed 10 Birkies as well as 20+ running marathons and trains year round. Barry has completed 16 Birkies as well as week long backpacking treks in the Grand Canyon and has climbed multiple Colorado fourteeners."

Birkie Warrior Spirit

"Darald, 100% Norwegian and 39 year member of the Sons of Norway, has probable ancestry to both Prince Haakon and John “Snowshoe” Thompson; he has traveled with family to Norway to study genealogy and visit relatives. The oldest six of his seven grandchildren are Nordic skiing with hopes of doing the Birkie in future years. Barry traveled on a family history trip to Norway where he met his wife’s distant cousins who’ve completed the Norwegian Birkebeiner. Darald, Barry, and Kristin have dreams about doing the Norwegian Birkebeiner together. In the early 1990s, Barry started doing the Birkie with his son, while his two daughters have completed the Kortelopet. Two of our daughters have studied in Norway."

"We will proudly represent the Birkebeiner legend by demonstrating the connection between the founding values of this great and historical event, and our love of this sport by helping to inspire the next generation. We are both volunteer coaches with the Rochester, MN (high school) Nordic Ski Team. Darald was one of the founding coaches in 2001. Over the past ten years the team has grown from five participants to 194 students! Many of the team every year have skied the Kortelopet. This year we are planning to start an elementary program. We are truly teaching the love of this sport!"

Inga Capability

"Physically, I train year round in various capacities and have the stamina to participate in the Birkie. I am a bike, run, and skier enthusiast. As a runner, I have completed 2 marathons (Grandma’s), as well as a 24-mile Duathon in Bloomington, MN."

"I have skated and classic skied for many years of my life, thanks in part to my parent’s encouragement. I completed the Kortelopet in 2011 and am inspired to continue the tradition!"

"Ultimately I envision doing the Birkie in Norway with my father. This would be a dream for him. It is a bigger dream of mine to take him on the next journey, from the meadows of Wisconsin to the mountains of Norway!"

Inga Spirit

"I am proud to be 100% Norwegian, and am quite passionate of this heritage, as is my entire family! Lutefisk, lefse, and rommegrot are staples at the family holiday table. I attended St. Olaf College, taking Norwegian as my foreign language. This aptitude allowed for me to bless my grandma with conversation in her native tongue."

"Additionally, while in post graduate dental school, I chose to extend my education to include a semester at the University of Bergen, Norway. My time there was enriching, making life-long friends, improving my ‘Norsk’, hiking Ulriken, travelling, etc.

Origins of the Warrior Legend

The two Viking warriors were called "Birkebeiners" for the protective birch bark leggings they wore. They skied more than 50 kilometers through Norway's rugged mountains and forested terrain, smuggling the infant son of King Syverresson and Inga of Vartieg from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim.

The rescued prince became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance, and character in the face of adversity.

Read more about the history of the Warrior Contest, see a list of past warriors, and more. 

“We had many high-quality entries,” said Susan Kendrick, Media and PR Coordinator for the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “Eleven different teams and individuals submitted entries that were inspiring, persuasive, and also demonstrated their ability to ski this challenging course as ambassadors of the Birkie. It was a difficult decision for the judges.”

On race day, the two Birkie Warriors and Inga will leave the start gate with the Elite Wave skiers. The rest of the 9,000 skiers will follow every five minutes in alternating skating and classic wave starts. The Warriors and Inga expect to see the majority of those skiers at one time or another along the trail throughout the day.

“They’ll not only re-enact the historic rescue, they’ll inspire over 9,400 skiers, 2,000 volunteers, and more than 15,000 spectators from around the world,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner. “The reaction of seeing the very origin of our event come to life like this is hard to put into words. The Warriors and Inga are one of the highlights of this event for everyone.


"To learn more about the American Birkebeiner, "The Birkie," North America’s largest and most prestigious cross country ski race, and to register for races and events, please visit www.Birkie.com, email birkie@birkie.com, or call 715-634-5025.

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