IRONMAORI co-founder Wayne Skipworth make Kona debut
IRONMAORI co-founder Wayne Skipworth flies out to Kailua-Kona Hawai`i tonight to take up the opportunity of a lifetime to race as a Global Ambassador at the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship on October 13 (5:25am start NZT).
Skipworth was nominated for the role by Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand and given the news in a surprise announcement in Hastings in July, and has since been taking time out from training other IRONMAORI athletes and working a little more on himself, making sure he is in the best possible shape to take on the pinnacle event for IRONMAN athletes around the world.
Despite having already raced Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand nine times, Skipworth readily admits this one is different, a chance to race at the home of IRONMAN.
“It is a big difference, knowing it is Kona and the heat that goes with it. Even having done so many IRONMAN New Zealand events this is the ultimate and so is a big difference. I have trained harder than I have ever trained, my eating has gone well, and I don’t have any injuries so yeah, I am pretty happy.”
“It has been quite emotional; it has been huge. It is a dream come true, nine years since I first saw Kona and it has always been a dream of mine and now it is happening. I have a good coach in Kevin Nicholson, he has been to the World’s three or four times now, so he has been coaching and mentoring me.
“Having the whole of IRONMAORI, IRONMAN New Zealand and Oceania and the World, that is something I am using as fuel on the way to Kona. Once you have done your first IRONMAN, anything is possible, and everything is positive, so I don’t worry about anything. I am going to take my time, enjoy the day, no pressure and go with the flow.”
The final week ahead of the October 13 race is largely ceremonial for anyone taking part, with the focus on a final taper and rest after weeks of intensive training but for Skipworth it will be a case of carefully managing his commitments as a Global Ambassador to ensure he reaches the start line in the best shape possible.
“I have a few meetings and interviews with American and international film crews, and I am a guest at the Australia – New Zealand athlete breakfast on the Tuesday, so time is pretty tight, I won’t have too much time to think about it. My trainings are pretty low key though as I am tapering, I will try and do my running in the mornings and spend the week acclimatizing to the conditions.
“The heat will be the biggest challenge, that and the humidity. The aspect I am looking forward to most is meeting all the other competitors from around the world.”
Interest from international media is high, largely on the back of the incredible work of IRONMAORI and the life changing moments they have helped create for Maori people in New Zealand, but especially in his local Hawke’s Bay region. Skipworth says the fit is a natural one with his people and the incredibly demanding event.
“It is all natural to us, we are connected to the land, connected to the water. And being a Maori going back to Hawai’i is like going home, back to where we migrated from.”
Skipworth is aware of the responsibility he carries with him to Kailua Kona and the support he has enjoyed in the lead up to the biggest moment in his IRONMAN life so far. IRONMAORI co-founder and wife Heather will travel with other family members to support Wayne and share in the global recognition for the work that IRONMAORI has done throughout New Zealand.
“I just want to thank the whanau, especially IRONMAN New Zealand who put our names forward, and to IRONMAN Oceania and the global IRONMAN team. Heather and some of the whanau are leaving on Monday and staying in Honolulu for a few days before they join me on Thursday. That leaves me to prepare for the race before I enjoy spending the last few days with them.
“I feed off those energy levels around me and don’t really sleep much. The only thing I have to worry about is my heart rate going up at the start of the swim so I will just be at the back, take my time and get my rhythm and then away we go.”
IRONMAORI was founded in 2009 by Heather Skipworth and Missy Mackey, together with their husbands, Wayne Skipworth and George Mackey, and has grown in popularity over the years to become a respected multi-sport event which continues to attract an increasing number of followers, including non-Maori, who support the kaupapa of leading healthier more active lifestyles.
Wayne has himself taken the sport on with a passion and in March will compete in his tenth Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo. But in just over a week he has a bigger race day looming, the chance to line up at the holy grail of IRONMAN, where it all started, at the Vega World Championship on Kailua-Kona.