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Henson's tears as he meets up with son after icy break.

Byline: DARREN DEVINE

RUGBY player Gavin Henson survived a series of terrifying challenges in the Arctic for a new reality TV show - only to be reduced to tears when he finally got home.

The Welsh international, who has two children, Ruby, and Dexter, with his former partner Charlotte Church, said he risked his life filming the ITV1 show 71 Degrees North where contestants brave the freezing temperatures of northern Norway. The 28 year old said: "I pushed myself to the limit on everything and I risked my life seven or eight times, maybe. When you want to win you do crazy things."

With temperatures plummeting as low as -30C (-22F) several contestants and crew came down with hypothermia and frostbite, but Henson kept a brave face through it all until he was reunited with his family.

He said: "When I left, Dexter wasn't really walking and then I came back and saw him in a hotel room he shoutedmyname 'daddy' and ran across the room.

"That was unbelievable and I felt I'd been away too long. I hadn't cried since I was 17 and I broke my leg but that drove me to tears."

Before leaving, Henson, who is currently on unpaid leave from his region the Ospreys, had said he knew that being away from his children was going to be the toughest challenge of all.

"Throughout my career I've been used to being away from homefor six and seven weeks at a time for rugby," he said. "But I've never been away from my kids for so long, so that's what makes it different now."

The player, who says he wants to get back into shape to make the Wales squad for next year's World Cup, said the gruelling physical challenges were one of the show's most appealing aspects.

He took a photograph of Ruby, two, and Dexter, one, on the journey he says he undertook to find out how he would cope "under extreme conditions with TV cameras following me 24/7".

Henson, who spent four minutes in icy water in one of the tasks, said he believed the programme could change people's perceptions of him.

The player is said to have shown "real commitment" to his fake tan and beauty regime despite the inhospitable environment.

Henson is one of 10 celebrities taking part in the series which sees them try to swim, ski, trek and climb their way across the icy landscape to the Arctic circle.

Each week they split into two teams to compete against each other with the winners getting a night in the comfort of a luxury cabin while the losers brave sub-zero temperatures in a tent.

Along the way they are voted out one-by-one as the contestants decide who should go home. They also take part in individual immunity challenges, including swimming in an icy fjord and climbing a frozen waterfall, with the winner being exempt from that week's elimination.

The show, presented by Gethin Jones and Kate Thornton, promises to push the celebrities, including GMTV's Andrew Castle, actor Shane Richie and Footballers' Wives star Susie Amy, to their limits. But despite the dangers the only person who got injured was Thornton.

She said: "I fell over outside the hotel trying to get reception on my phone. I fractured my ribs and ended up in hospital having X-rays and all that and had to get strapped up."

The first episode of 71 Degrees North airs this Saturday at 9pm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 7, 2010
Words:577
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