On top of the world! Former Leeds rugby player’s latest challenge

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Leeds rugby player-turned-extreme environment athlete Richard Parks is preparing to tackle perhaps his most unusual and important challenge to date.

Richard, 38, will be attempting to climb Mount Everest in May so samples of his blood and muscle tissue can be collected at the summit.

Checks will also be run on his cardiovascular, respiratory and brain functions while he is standing on top of the world.

Researchers at the University of South Wales will then analyse the samples and data to try to learn more about the effects of extreme altitude on the body and mind.

It is hoped the initiative – named Project Everest Cynllun – will provide fresh insight into the mechanisms that underpin cognitive decline and dementia.

Richard previously made headlines in 2011 by becoming the first person to stand on the world’s poles and the highest peaks on its seven continents in the same calendar year.

His other feats include completing the fastest-ever unassisted solo journey to the South Pole by a Briton.

But he admits the forthcoming climb – which, remarkably, he will undertake without supplemental oxygen – could be his toughest test yet.

Wales-born Richard said: “I’ve been immersed in the development and training for this project for 18 months now and it’s awesome to be able to finally talk about it!”

He went on: “I am prepared to be pushed further than I’ve ever been before, however the opportunity to collect this pioneering data justifies the effort.

“It’s a privilege to be able to use my performance to add value to our world.”

Richard was part of the Leeds Tykes rugby union team that won the Powergen Cup in 2005 but was forced to retire from the sport four years later due to injury.