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Blind NI explorer closes in on South Pole

By Margaret Canning

An inspirational Northern Ireland man will make history this weekend by becoming the first blind person to conquer the South Pole.





Mark Pollock (32), a member of Team South Pole Flag, is predicted to finish fourth this weekend in the |historic 481-mile Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race.

The event is the first race to the South Pole for almost 100 years since the famous showdown between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen in 1912.

Mr Pollock’s team mate Simon |O’Donnell has described Mr Pollock’s progress in the race as “unbelievable and inspirational”.

The four teams taking part have faced temperatures of minus 40 degrees centigrade with wind chill as they traverse the largest ice cap in the world to the Geographic South Pole, pulling 70kg sleds behind them.

Mark went blind when he was 22 and studying at Trinity College, Dublin. He won a silver medal rowing for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth games, finished the 250km Gobi Desert ultramarathon and raced in the North Pole marathon. In 2007 he became the first blind person to complete the lowest and highest marathons in the world — the Dead Sea Ultra in Jordan, followed by the Tenzing-Hillary Everest marathon in Nepal.

Englishman Captain Scott reached the Pole on January 17 1912, only to find Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen had beaten him to it 35 days earlier.

Ninety-seven years later, history repeated itself, with Norwegian team Missing Link first to finish yesterday. Trailing 30 miles behind was British Team Qinetiq — including TV presenter Ben Fogle, and Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell.

Missing Link said they were “elated, emotional and extremely exhausted”. They covered 50km a day and snatched a few hours sleep every night.

Team Qinetiq is expected to finish second, followed by Team Danske Bank in third place, while Team Due South and Team South Pole Flag battle for fourth, arriving on Saturday or Sunday. Team Southern Lights, which is made up of the oldest adventurers, will reach the South Pole on skis.

Race updates are available on www.amundsenomega3southpolerace.com

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