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Tough competition: World Eskimo-Indian Olympics features muktuk contest

By Heather Hintze 9:30 AM July 18, 2014
FAIRBANKS –

It’s a whale of a competition.

“Muktuk eaters ready…set…go!” yelled the announcer.

Not all the games at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics are about strength and agility; sometimes it’s just about how much you can stomach.

Janie Snyder knows what it takes to win the muktuk eating contest.

“A little chewing and swallowing whole if you can,” she divulged.

The 67-year-old Barrow resident has competed in the event for more than two decades. Competitors are tasked with eating a two-inch-by-three-inch piece of blubber and skin from a bowhead whale.

Muktuk is an Alaska Native staple, though Janie finds this batch a bit bland.

“We prefer salt,” she said matter-of-factly. “It tastes like seafood. Any seafood. It’s better than shrimp. ”

Ulus worked frantically as competitors cut it up so it’s easier to swallow.

“I’m doing good,” said Vanessa Tahbone from Nome. “I got pretty close. Tastes delicious!”

A couple minutes in and Janie was feeling good, though she couldn’t tell you that with her mouth full.

“Mmm…mmmm,” she mumbled.

Just a few more muktuk morsels and she was ready to wrap up the competition.

She set her ulu down, stretched her arms out and opened her mouth wide so the judges could see it’s all gone.

“I did it,” she laughed. “I did it.”

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