Rugby star Richard Parks cuts 10 days off British South Pole trek record


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The Independent Online

A former Welsh international rugby player has set the second fastest unsupported solo journey to the South Pole in history.

Richard Parks, 36, reached the finishing line at 05.24 GMT yesterday as the temperature hit -24C, less than five years after his rugby career ended in a shoulder injury.

He completed the 1,150km (715 mile) journey from the Antarctic coastline in 29 days, 19 hours and 24 minutes, establishing a new British record.

"I'm exhausted. Physically, I am absolutely shattered, mentally I am frazzled. It is just a lot to take in. I have a lot of emotions bouncing around, but I am happy, proud and grateful," he said.

Mr Parks added that it was tough to complete the final few kilometres as he approached the South Pole marker and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

"I was only about 3km away and I literally was having to talk myself out of pitching my tent with every step, I just didn't think I could put another foot in front of the other," he said.

Mr Parks faced brutal Antarctic conditions and completed the last two days with a broken ski.

He took nearly 10 days off the previous British record set in 2006. Hannah McKeand reached the South Pole in 39 days, nine hours and 33 minutes.

He also became the 19th person – and the first from Wales – to complete the journey solo and unsupported.

Mr Parks, who missed his target of 23 days to break the Norwegian Christian Eide's world record, added: "I felt quite overwhelmed in the last steps getting to the South Pole marker. So many emotions were bouncing around in my body.

"It was not quite the script I had planned, but I was full of gratitude and pride because I know what I achieved is special. I skied to the marker, took a few minutes just to savour it and take it in.... I will probably be reflecting on this for quite some time."

Last month, Maria Leijerstam, 35, from the Vale of Glamorgan, cycled to the South Pole in 10 days.

She completed a gruelling 800-kilometre ride in "vicious" conditions with white-out blizzards, snowdrifts and crevasses to contend with. At one point, the sweat on the inside of Ms Leijerstam's boots froze.