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Blind adventurer to blaze trail for Olympics

IT'S no race to the North Pole or through the Gobi Desert, but when disabled adventurer Mark Pollock carries the Olympic torch in Dublin this summer, it will be a career highlight.

The 36-year-old -- who is blind and paralysed from the waist down -- has been named as one of four Trinity College representatives to usher the flame through the capital this June.

"I am very proud to have any sort of involvement in the Olympics," he told the Irish Independent last night.

Few will argue a better candidate to carry the Olympic flame -- Mr Pollock has become the ultimate example of overcoming adversity.

Medals

At the age of 22 he lost his eyesight as a result of being born with weak retinas. Then, in 2010, he fell from a second storey window which broke his back in three places and left him without any feeling in his legs.

But in the last 10 years he has won two Commonwealth medals for rowing, written a book and competed in a number of endurance races all over the world, including the North Pole.

In 2003 he ran six marathons in seven days across the Gobi Desert in Asia.

His latest escapade is likely to be less adventurous, but just as memorable.

"It's different from the races because the races are a sporting event that you are preparing for for so long; usually it can take a year," he said. "So it's more of an honour compared to the events that I have been involved in."

The Co Down native is now preparing for a sailing event from Scotland to Ireland and considering another endurance test next year in the Arctic. He has recently been testing robotic exoskeleton legs -- in California and in England -- which are likely to cost between €50,000 and €100,000.

"Robotic legs last year didn't exist and this year I have been standing and walking in them," he said. Mr Pollock will be joined on his Olympic torch run by Trinity student Aine Ni Choisdealbha who won a Trinity gold medal last year for achievements in psychology.

Fellow students Natalya Coyle, who is likely to qualify for the London games in the pentathlon, and Mark Kenneally, who will run in the marathon, will join them on June 6.

Also involved is Henry Sheflin, nominated by the GAA, as well as Olympic boxing medallists Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth.

The Olympic Council of Ireland will release a full list of torch-bearers later this month.

Irish Independent