The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2012 has proved to be a momentous race in 4 Deserts racing history. When the fifth edition of the event came to a close in the snowy setting of Danko Island yesterday, new records were being forged in all directions.
Anne-Marie Flammersfeld of Germany emerged as the first woman to ever win all four events in the 4 Deserts series—and not only that, she did it all in one year. “My objective was the 4 Deserts Grand Slam,” explains the 34-year old fitness trainer and sports scientist who is based in Switzerland. “I started training mid-2011. The Atacama Crossing was my first ultra ever and it was all about the first experience... It was really only after the Sahara Race, that I knew I could do this.”
There was also a remarkable victory for overall race winner, Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito. The Spanish racer came to Antarctica having already won each of the 4 Deserts races in 2012, including the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (China) and Sahara Race (Egypt). By winning The Last Desert (Antarctica), he joins Ryan Sandes as the only other person to have been champion of every race in the 4 Deserts series—but Beneito has taken it up a notch by winning them all in one calendar year for the first time.
“I’m really happy, this is a dream come true,” said the Spaniard. “This was the hardest race for me, I really had to focus. The terrain was a challenge, also the unpredictability of the conditions and weather. It was also hard because the Sahara Race was so close. I have had a problem in my foot, the tendons have been inflamed.”
Germany’s Michael Brehe took second overall position, powering through every stage with a deft ability to race across snow and ice. Anne-Marie Flammersfeld was third overall winner and Japan’s Hidechika Kadasawa came in fourth position. In the women’s division, two great athletes tied as second-placed females: Nahila Hernandez San Juan of Mexico and Australia’s Sandy Suckling.
In the team’s division, yet more staggering feats took place in the snow: The winning team, JDRF Born to Run, became the first team to complete all 4 Desert races—and again, they did it all in 2012. The group consists of Australians Jess Baker, Roger Hanney, Ron Schwabel and father and son Greg and Matt Donovan. Their experience was dedicated to raising awareness and funding for Type 1 diabetes research.
“We feel so relieved,” said Greg Donovan. “So much time and effort has gone into planning. With a team of five, so much can go wrong and as a team there is a greater chance of failure then taking part as individuals. Now, it’s time to celebrate.”
The Last Desert began on November 24th on King Georges Island and saw 49 competitors from 27 countries set out across up to 200-kilometers in the only multi-stage event to take place on the Antarctic continent. They raced in varying weather conditions over several days, from sunlit skies to snow flurries and from deep snow to bare cliffs.
By the end of the race, 39 competitors had joined the 4 Deserts Club, of which 18 completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. Among them was 22-year old James Gaston of the United States who became the third person to complete all five RacingThePlanet events in one calendar year (including RacingThePlanet: Jordan).
“This has been an incredible race and a fitting end to what has been an historic year for the 4 Deserts series,” said RacingThePlanet founder Mary Gadams. “We are seeing athletes show unsurpassed levels of endurance and discipline to be taking on—and winning—every event in the series. And to see a team such as JDRF Born to Run take on a great challenge and sustain such teamwork in the name of charity, has been a humbling experience.”
About The Last Desert 2012 (22 Nov – 3 Dec 2012) - www.thelastdesert.com
The Last Desert (Antarctica) is held every two years and forms the final race of the iconic 4 Deserts series. Competitors must complete a minimum of two of the other 4 Deserts events to be invited to participate in the race.
The self-supported footrace is up to 250 kilometers with competitors having to carry a mandatory list of equipment, nutrition and water on each stage. The race uses a polar expedition ship as its base, traveling to the different course locations on the Antarctic Peninsula and offshore islands based on the prevailing sea and weather conditions, with competitors transferred from ship to shore by special zodiacs.
The unique challenges of The Last Desert (Antarctica) include having to cope with the severity of the weather conditions that can include gale-force blizzards and temperatures down to -20 degrees C (4 degrees F). Competitors also have to deal with the unpredictability of daily stage lengths and start-times, as the prevailing environmental conditions dictate where and when stages might begin.
About the 4 Deserts - www.4deserts.com
The 4 Deserts is the world’s leading endurance footrace series, a unique collection of world-class races that take place over 7 days and 250 kilometers in the largest and most forbidding deserts on the planet.
Competitors must go beyond the limits of their physical and mental endurance. Racing self-supported in the most inhospitable climates and formidable landscapes, they must carry all their own equipment and food, and are only provided with drinking water and a place in a tent each night to rest.
The series, named again by TIME magazine as one of the world’s Top 10 endurance competitions, comprises the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Gobi March in China, the Sahara Race in Egypt and The Last Desert in Antarctica.
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