A GRIEVING Rotherham firefighter has won the gruelling Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins after being pushed to his physical and mental limits.
Last night, viewers saw Mark Peart (31) complete the longest and toughest 11-day challenge in the show’s history in the punishing Andes Mountains in Central Chile.
Mark and two other contestants — including, for the first time ever, a woman — made it to the finish line after a brutal 18-hour "interrogation" exercise in sub-zero temperatures, which saw them "abducted" and "tortured" by a specialist team.
Mark, a firefighter based at Dearne fire station, was physically the strongest recruit out of the 25 men and women throughout the series. But he was facing one of the toughest battles mentally due to his wife’s death six months’ before he was selected for the unique SAS challenge.
The widower was at first reluctant to speak to his fellow recruits about wife Chelsey’s death — but later opened up about her mental health struggles and how he had discovered her body at their Brampton Bierlow home after she committed suicide in April.
Talking after the show ended Mark said: “I signed up because I wanted to challenge myself. It was also a distraction and a way to project negative energy into something positive that was going to help me move forward and grow as a person.”
Viewers saw Mark describe his wife as “perfect in every single way”, adding: “She was beautiful — she was funny, happy, honestly like the fairytale. But she just had these things that ate away on her — low self-esteem and anxieties.
“I’m still feeling lost with it and don’t fully understand. I don’t think I ever will.”
The widower said he had felt in “physical pain” since her death and that his “heart aches all the time”.
He added: “I was the first person to find her when I got in from work. She hung herself. I know it just wasn’t her.
“With mental illness, people don’t believe that it’s out of their control. She loved life so I know, 100 per cent, that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her choice.
“I just think: ‘Why didn’t she ring me that day?’, or just talk to me and tell me what was happening? Because I know I could have talked her down.”
This is the first year SAS: Who Dares Wins has featured male and female candidates, following the decision by the Ministry of Defence to open the selection process to women in 2019.
Mark’s fellow finalist Lou (40), an orthopeadic surgeon, was the last woman standing.
Here, Mark answers more questions about his time on the hit TV show:
Tell me about your experience on SAS: Who Dares Wins?
It was good. Better than what I expected it to be and harder than I expected it to be. I know that physically I excelled in there but there wasn’t a point I wasn’t pushing myself to my limit and one of my biggest worries was that I wouldn’t have anything left in the reserve tank for the next task or challenge. But that’s just how I am. If I felt like I wasn’t putting everything in then I’d feel like I was cheating myself. I’d have people say to me “It’s alright for you because you’re fit or strong” but it still hurt me just as much and I was still giving it my everything.
Did you find it difficult? Was it more difficult than you expected?
Yes, it was difficult. I don’t think you can get across on TV everything that you go through. Even the smallest things that probably won’t be shown, were the hardest part. I’d say I struggled most when I was sitting around as that is when the anticipation of not knowing set in. That’s something you can’t get across or explain.
This was quite a unique series, the first time female recruits have been permitted to ever join SAS: Who Dares Wins. How does that feel?
It’s good to see this movement because this is what is actually happening in society right now and is the future. I feel privileged that I got to be part of such a huge statement and giving women a platform to prove themselves.
Do you think the women found it harder than the male recruits?
It’s an individual thing, not a gender thing. There were times where I struggled sitting around but that had nothing to do with the fact I’m male. There wasn’t a time where I thought women struggled more in this part or men struggled more in this part, it could have been anyone.
How did you cope with the harsh winter weather conditions?
I used my time productively to make sure my kit was dry. I would heat a mug of water up on the fire which helped a lot. Then the rest is just mindset, knowing you were going to get cold and accepting it was going to be uncomfortable.
You had to share all your space with women for the whole time you were there, including sleeping and toilets. How did you find that?
It was strange how quickly we adapted to it. If anything, I think the men were more worried about the women feeling uncomfortable but they made it easier for us because they just got on with it. I expected that it was going to bother the women more but I changed my mind and they showed how resilient they are.
At any point, did you forget the female recruits were women?
It’s not that I forgot they were women it was more that it just didn’t matter, it wasn’t a thing. The toilet situation or even people getting changed, you didn’t think about it. You had more important things in there to worry about so that went out the window.
Do you think gender makes a difference in this environment?
I think women push the men to give more. I’m still on the fence with it all. Don’t get me wrong, I was amazed how strong the women were, they were stronger than half the men in there. I just think men naturally want to protect women. If I saw a man in pain and a women in pain I would naturally run to the women first. But then again that the man’s problem because it’s not women’s fault that we want to protect, even if they don’t want it. We can spoil women’s opportunities because of our natural instincts.
Now that you have this experience, would you like to join the real Special Forces?
I probably would have done but I’m probably too old now.
What was the best part of the series for you?
Having the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people. In a normal walk of life you would never get to experience it. Also understanding how far I could push myself mentally and how much was really left in the tank when you thought you were done.
What were (Special Forces instructors) Ant, Foxy, Ollie and Billy like?
I thought Ant and I had similar personalities, so I feel like I got on with him. When he spoke it resonated deeper. There was always a purpose and a reason when he was speaking. The DS, I felt humanised themselves a bit more but that’s probably because they had roles which allowed them to do that. They were all very special and you really respect what they have done.
Would you ever do it again?
Yes. Some of the stuff you did was like the best thing and the worst thing all at the same time. It’s a weird feeling wanting to go back but there is something in pushing yourself to the limit. It’s something you naturally crave. The bonds you make with the other recruits is what you really miss. You feel like no one else really understands it and you can’t explain it to them.
We want to continue holding local authorities to account, attending court and council meetings, as well as providing breaking news, competitions and offers – but it costs money. Online advertising does not cover costs, therefore we feel the need to ask for your help in ensuring we can provide the best possible coverage, online and in our printed products.
For as little as £1, you can support the Rotherham Advertiser – and it only takes a minute.
Click here to support local news.