Belfast Telegraph

Sailing champion and blind athlete unite for sea feat

By Patrice Dougan

Almost two years since a freak accident paralysed his legs, a blind adventure athlete has set himself a new challenge.

Determined not to let his spinal cord injury stop him, Mark Pollock (36) is set to sail across the Irish Sea.

The Holywood, Co Down, adventurer will return to the seas in this new challenge, which will see him battle waves and stormy conditions.

Blind from the age of 22, Mark was paralysed in a fall in 2010, but has vowed to continue to test the limits of his strength and endurance as he tries to find a way to walk again.

No stranger to remarkable feats in harsh environments, Mark has previously faced sub-zero temperatures to become the first blind person to reach the South Pole, sweated in scorching heat to run six marathons in the Gobi Desert in one week, completed the North Pole marathon, raced through the desert lowlands of the Syrian African Rift Valley, and competed at high altitude in the Everest marathon.

During these challenges, Mark competed against some of the world’s most famous professional explorers, such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and he counts Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell among his friends.

Now, recovering from a life-threatening fall two years ago, Mark has decided on his latest challenge — encouraged by friend and sailor, Tiffany Brien.

Tiffany — who sails for Ireland — has previously raised money for charity Sailability to buy a boat for wheelchair users.

The pair will now sail the Paralympic-class SKUD yacht from Scotland to Belfast to raise money for Sailability and the Mark Pollock Trust, which is helping support Mark in his recovery and bid to walk again. “Tiffany called me when I was in hospital last February with this idea,” Mark said.

“I had been doing adventure races prior to my accident and she figured I might like to get out of hospital and get back on a boat and back out in the great outdoors.”

“I had gone from being able to walk and ski to the South Pole and run any distance, to not being able to get out of bed,” he said.

Mark is determined to walk again — he has already travelled to America and Israel to try out experimental robotic legs — and half the money raised will go towards this goal.

Mark and Tiffany will set sail on the six-hour trip in early June.

Belfast Telegraph

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