TIVERTON dog owners Mandi and Nick Stone are hoping for gold when they take their beloved Siberian huskies to the world sled dog racing championships for a second time next year.

The husband and wife team qualified to represent Great Britain at the event after winning two classes at the Sled Dog Association of Scotland’s nat-ional championships in North-umberland last month.

They will now take their pack of six highly-trained dogs to Italy next November for the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports’ world championships, where they will compete against professional racing teams from across the globe.

The event will not be the couple’s first outing on the world stage, as Nick already boasts a fourth place finish at last year’s championships in Germany.

“To compete in the world championships and come fourth was a great achievement, let alone qualifying twice in two years,” said Mandi, who works as a senior carer at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Instit-ution’s Cadogan Court nursing home in Exeter.

“All the teams from Great Britain returned home proud having gained top ten positions in a highly competitive field.

“A lot of other countries are backed by their governments, as sled dog racing is classed as a professional sport there, whereas here it is not as highly recognised and is funded from our own pockets, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The couple fell in love with sled dog racing when they were introduced to the sport by a home visiting welfare inspector after buying their first two husky puppies from a specialist breeder six years ago.

Today they compete in events across the UK and the dogs can often be seen towing Mandi or Nick on their three-wheel rig through the woods during their regular rambling training sessions. “The reaction we get from the public while out training is fantastic,” added mum-of-three Mandi “They hear the dogs and see us thundering past, and it just takes their breath away.

“We would really like our amazing dogs recognised as this is a relatively unknown sport in this country.

“Two of the dogs are a lot older and experienced now, so fingers crossed for Italy, but we will be proud of them wherever they come.”