Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness’ Vice President and London 2012 Olympian, Ed Fernon, has won the world’s longest and toughest horse race in record time. The 29-year-old conquered the gruelling Mongol Derby, crossing the finish line with South African Barry Armitage in equal first.

Exhausted and exhilarated post-race, Fernon reflected, “Winning wasn’t important, rather it was the desire to push myself to the absolute limit and I’ve done that so I’m happy.” The 2017 race saw 42 competitors, from nine countries, riding 1,020 kilometres across Mongolia on 27 semi-wild horses.

Mostly riding full tilt, they charged through the rugged terrain of the Mongolian steppes, fording rivers, deserts and wide open plains on a course that is designed to recreate Genghis Khan’s ancient postal system.

Putting the competitor’s survival skills, horsemanship, navigation and sheer endurance to the test, just finishing the race is a feat in itself. Out of the 42 competitors that set out, nine of the riders were forced to withdraw. Despite having the least amount of injuries of any year, the race still included two people with broken ribs, an evacuation with a suspected broken neck, a broken collarbone, concussion and a broken ankle.

Fernon’s love of riding inspired him to take up the sport of modern pentathlon at the age of 19, while studying a Bachelor of Commerce at Sydney University. After mastering the five disciplines of swimming, fencing, running, shooting and show jumping, he represented Australia at the 2012 London Olympics.

Craving a new challenge post-Olympics, Fernon undertook a charity horse ride to increase awareness of rural depression and raised $55,000 for The Black Dog Institute. Starting in Braidwood, NSW the 1100km ride took participants through Canberra and then all the way down to Melbourne along the Bicentennial National Trail.

As a chaser to that adventure, Fernon climbed Argentina’s Aconcagua. The enormous 7000m peak, is the second highest of the seven summits and the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere.