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Parks completes epic challenge
ESPNscrum Staff
July 12, 2011
Richard Parks finishes his epic challenge by reaching the top of Mount Elbrus on Tuesday, Russia, July 12, 2011
Parks finished his epic challenge on Tuesday reaching the peak of Mount Elbrus on Tuesday © 737 Challenge
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Former Wales international Richard Parks made history on Tuesday when he became the first ever person to reach the highest summits on each of the world's continents and trek to both poles in the same calendar year.

The former flanker, who retired two years ago, completed the 737 challenge in just six months, 11 days, seven hours and 53 minutes. Parks, who is hoping to raise £1m for Marie Curie, reached the summit of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, at 8.53am BST on Tuesday. The achievement is yet to sink in for Parks and speaking from the top of Elbrus, he admitted he was still in shock.

"It hasn't sunken in yet, I am sure when I am back home and I have got the team around me I guess it will sink in then," Parks said. "My energy levels went from a quarter of a tank to pretty much bone dry today, the final hour of the summit climb I had to dig pretty deep, my legs were quite tired and mentally it was quite tough".

Parks has overcome a variety of hardships in realising his immense goal including contracting frostbite after summiting Everest to falling down a crevasse on Denali. Despite the set-backs, Parks was confident he would complete the task. "I had every confidence that I would be able to do it from day 1, however some of the hurdles and dramas that we have had over the last 7 months, I'd be lying if I said I haven't had my doubts. Physically my body has just about held up, I am not sure I have another mountain in me for a couple of months!"

The former Newport Gwent Dragons started his journey on December 10 when he set out to reach the South Pole. Despite starting in December, the challenge is measured from when he left the South Pole on January 1. Parks went on to summit Denali, Elbrus, Mount Vinson, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Carstensz Pyramid, Mount Everest and reached the North Pole.

"I feel incredibly privileged to have experienced the last 7 months," Parks said. "To stand on the top of the world's highest mountains and see some of the most beautiful places on earth - I am just so grateful to so many people who have made the 737 Challenge possible for me, from the challenge team, to the sponsors to my parents to everyone who has made this a reality and to everyone for following and supporting my challenge."

Tributes from the world of rugby began to pour in on Tuesday with Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis leading the plaudits. "Congratulations to Richard, a remarkable man and an amazing achievement. Welsh rugby is proud to call you one of its sons," Lewis said. "We have been keenly following Richard's progress since the very start when he announced his mission to raise this money for charity in Cardiff Bay and we have been equally proud that he has carried Welsh rugby's three feathers on his kit for the duration of his journey. Richard is a special person, he has taken Wales to the world and the world has been forced to sit up and take notice and he is a credit to us all."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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