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‘Polar Preet’: first woman of colour to ski solo across Antartica

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When Preet Chandi, a British Army physiotherapist, skied 700 miles across Antarctica, she set a record of sorts – becoming the first woman of colour to complete a solo crossing on the continent.

Known as ‘Polar Preet’, she came close to setting a new world record by a woman for the trek, narrowly missing the time set by Johanna Davidsson of Sweden who finished in 38 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes in 2016.

Preet finished in 40 days, almost a week ahead of schedule. The expedition had been expected to take between 45 and 48 days.

She is now the third-fastest female solo skier for this expedition and also the first person to reach the South Pole on foot in two years, the British Army said.

Preet Chand during her expedition. Source: British Army Twitter
Preet Chandi during her expedition. Source: British Army Twitter

Upon accomplishing her goal, Preet Chandi, 32, a captain with 3 Medical Regiment, said, “I’m feeling so many emotions right now. I knew nothing about the polar world three years ago and it feels so surreal to finally be here. It was tough getting here and I want to thank everybody for their support.

“This expedition was always about so much more than me. I want to encourage people to push their boundaries and to believe in themselves, and I want you to be able to do it without being labeled a rebel.

“I have been told ‘No’ on many occasions and to ‘just do the normal thing’, but we create our own normal. You are capable of anything you want.

“No-matter where you are from or where your start line is, everybody starts somewhere. I don’t want to just break the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.”

Starting from Antarctica’s Hercules Inlet Preet covered a daily average distance of around 17 miles, enduring temperatures as low as -50C, wind speeds of up to 60mph, while pulling a 90kg sled and battling through whiteouts. Towards the end of the journey, she suffered exhaustion as well as a persistent cough and sickness.

“In a season in which a number of other South Pole expeditions have failed to reach their goals, Preet’s solo achievement is a standout success,” Steve Jones, the Expeditions Manager at Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions stated.

Brigadier Faithfull-Davies CBE, Commander 102 Logistic Brigade, said: “I have been watching Polar Preet’s Antarctic endeavours with admiration and awe as I have seen her maintain incredible distances and pace every single day of her expedition.

“Her engaging podcasts on her website have brought to life the arduous conditions and her extreme endurance, she is a truly remarkable woman.”

Preet Chandi. Source: British Army Twitter

Preet Chandi also hoped her journey would inspire young people, women, and those from minority-ethnic backgrounds. Speaking to the Guardian during her training for the trek, she said people did not expect an Asian woman to attempt such an endeavour.

“I am an Asian woman; I’m not the image that people expect to see out there,” she said. “People say the outdoors is for everyone and yes, it is. But if you come from a community that is not involved in it at all, or you don’t see anybody that looks like you doing it, it can be really hard.”

After completing the trek, she plans to set up an adventure grant to help more women fund expeditions in what is often a male-dominated arena, the British news website said.

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