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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 21:01 GMT
Briton secures pole record
Andrew Cooney
Cooney suffered a shoulder injury during the trek
A 23-year-old Briton has walked into the record books and become the youngest person to trek to the South Pole.

Andrew Cooney, from Nottinghamshire, completed his gruelling 730-mile trek, just before 2000 GMT on Thursday.

Mr Cooney told his family he was " feeling great" but was already looking forward to coming home.

Reaching the South Pole meant he broke the record of 27-year-old Londoner Tom Avery who became the youngest Briton to reach the pole just five days ago.

Clear blue sky

For Mr Cooney, a scout leader, the task was made more difficult after he suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the trek which meant he had to start taking painkillers.

He had been expected to reach his goal at around 1900 GMT so there was some tension as his parents waited for the call to confirm he had arrived.

Speaking via satellite phone as he set out on Thursday morning, he told BBC News 24 he hoped to complete the last 11-and-a-half nautical miles in six or seven hours.

"We are very lucky at the moment. We are on top of the polar plateau.

"It is very flat so we are going quite fast.

Youngest to the pole
Andrew Cooney
When I have got the world record I think a hot bath and a fresh bread sandwich would go down nicely

Andrew Cooney
"It is minus 30C and for a change it is clear blue sky and the sun is shining.

Mr Cooney, a Territorial Army lieutenant at Grantham in Lincolnshire, set off on the ice on 11 November with five other expedition members.

Since then he has endured altitude sickness and battled through "white-out" snow storms while pulling a 200-pound sled with his injured shoulder.

'Tearful moments'

"It was a lot worse earlier in the expedition but it has slowly improved, although because I have been using other muscles to compensate for the injury I have hurt a bit in my upper back.

"When I get there and stop pulling the sled along I should improve dramatically and I have got an appointment already for when I get home."

Mr Cooney's father Terry, from Thurgarton, near Nottingham, said there had been a "a few tearful moments" when his son, a former Southampton Institute student, contacted them over the Christmas period

The trek - which was in planning for four years - has taken Mr Cooney to an altitude of 9,000 feet with wind chill temperatures dropping as low as minus 52C.

Famous explorer

His fellow expedition members are Graham Stonehouse, from London, and Spaniards Guillermo Banales and Angel Naves.

They are being led by renowned woman explorer Matty McNair, leader of the first women's expedition to the geographic North Pole, along with assistant guide Devon McDiarmid.

The Cooney family has been forced to plough 30,000 into the expedition after a sponsor withdrew at the last moment.

Andrew Cooney was hoping to raise 10,000 for research and support for oesophageal cancer, which his father contracted five years ago.

He said: "When I have got the world record I think a hot bath and a fresh bread sandwich would go down nicely."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"He's on top of the world - or rather the bottom"
  Andrew Cooney
"It is just a fantastic experience to be here"

Click here to go to Nottingham

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

30 Dec 02 | England
28 Dec 02 | England
16 Dec 02 | England
21 Oct 02 | England
07 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
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