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Richard Dunwoody reaches the South Pole

11th February 2008

Richard Dunwoody yesterday celebrated his 44th birthday at the South Pole, the destination of an epic journey which has seen the former champion jump jockey push his physical and mental limits to the very edge.

Dunwoody and his companion, the American explorer Doug Stoup, celebrated with coffee and biscuits in the research centre, the first building they have seen for 48 days and 673 miles.

Both Dunwoody and Stoup have lost more than two stones in weight since setting out on the expedition. They have been expending roughly 8,000 calories a day but consuming only about 5,500 a day in dehydrated and high-calorie foods.

Since the expedition was unsupported - meaning they received no food drops - they have had to pull all their supplies behind them on sledges, which at the start of the journey weighed as much as 17 stones apiece.

Dunwoody will need treatment for a chest complaint, while his companion is suffering from snow blindness in one eye. A third member of the team, James Fox, had to abandon the expedition after 24 days, suffering from mental and physical exhaustion.

Stoup and Dunwoody have succeeded in pioneering a new route to the Pole, one that had only previously been attempted - unsuccessfully - by Ernest Shackleton in 1914.

Dunwoody was champion jockey in 1993, 1994 and 1995, and was the only jockey of his generation to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and the Grand National. He rode 1,699 winners over 17 years but had to retire from the saddle in 1999 after a neck injury. After years of enforced weight-loss, he has enjoyed trying to take on as many calories as possible in the Antarctic evenings.

Dunwoody has been raising money through sponsorship on the expedition for three charities, Sparks, Spinal Research and Racing Welfare. The title sponsor of the journey was The Interchange Organisation.

Dunwoody, a driven figure who has never previously known a moment's idleness, will not be short of work when he returns. As well as motivational speaking and lecturing, he leads horse treks for the Wild Frontiers travel company.

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