Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Norway beats Britain in Pole race

Norwegians Rune Malterud and Stian Aker at the South Pole (pic: Flash)
The Norwegians took 17 days and 11 hours to reach the finish line

Nearly 100 years after Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole, Norway has once again left Britain trailing behind in a race across the Antarctic.

But instead of arriving 35 days later, Olympic rower James Cracknell, doctor Ed Coats and TV presenter Ben Fogle were beaten by just 20 hours.

They in turn beat four other teams in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race.

Winners Rune Malterud and Stian Aker planted their flag on the Pole after completing the 481-mile (774km) trek.

In January 1912, British explorer Captain Robert Scott set out to be the first person to reach to the South Pole, only to find that Norwegian Roald Amundsen had long been and gone.

Scott and his companions eventually died of cold, hunger and exhaustion on the return journey.

'Polar nation'

The inaugural Amundsen Race began on 4 January, with teams travelling on skis and dragging their tents and other equipment behind them on sledges.

On Thursday evening, after 17 days and 11 hours, Norwegian team Missing Link completed the feat.

"We felt we were reinforcing the reputation of the Norwegians as a polar nation," Aker said after crossing the line.

Ben Fogle and James Cracknell described the arduous conditions in the race

As the Norwegians reached their goal, the Britons, known as Team QinetiQ, were 31.8 miles (51km) behind.

They eventually made it to the Pole after a final exhausting push, skiing for 27 hours without a break.

Speaking from the Pole, Fogle told the BBC he was elated to reach the finish and "not very gutted" to have come second.

"We're all feeling absolutely exhausted," he said. "We pushed ourselves so hard.

"We were skiing for 16 hours every day, just sleeping for four hours every day, for three weeks, so the fact that they beat us by just 20 hours, I think we're actually very proud.

"We were expending probably 7,000 to 8,000 calories a day, so we're all very, very skinny., I've got frostbite on my nose, James has frostbite on his finger, we've had pneumonia between us, hypothermia.

"I don't think any of us fully anticipated just how tough Antarctica was going to be."

He said the Norwegians were consistently skiing faster and with better technique, so it was not surprising they had been victorious.

'In tears'

Fogle and Olympic gold medallist Cracknell were joined - and cared for - on the trek by Bristol-based Dr Coats who won a competition for his place in the team.

He told the BBC: "It's very hard to put into words [how I feel]. We all spent the last 500 metres in tears skiing up to the pole.

"It was really very hard to say very much because we were all in tears and just very, very excited and happy to have arrived."

The four other teams in the race - which include competitors from Britain, South Africa, Norway and Ireland - are still to reach the Pole.

In 2006, Fogle and Cracknell rowed together across the Atlantic.

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