IRONMAN World Championship dream comes true for IRONMAORI Co-founder

Published Date: 26 July, 2019

In an emotionally charged announcement in Hastings last night, IRONMAORI co-founder Wayne Skipworth was announced as one of a select few Global Ambassadors to the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, an honour that includes VIP treatment and the opportunity of a lifetime to race in Hawai`i, in October this year.


Skipworth was nominated by Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand and accepted by IRONMAN, such is the impact that IRONMAORI has made on many communities throughout New Zealand, affecting the lives of many Maori and non-Maori encouraging healthier and more active lifestyles, a story that has resonated with the Vega IRONMAN World Championship team.


Originally under the impression that the IRONMAN team were filming a media story on the impact of IRONMAORI, the real reason was revealed in a packed gym when Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand commentator Cameron Harper entered the gym and told Wayne the real reason the cameras were in the room, with the IRONMAORI whanau immediately breaking into a celebratory haka for Skipworth.


Skipworth was stunned and still struggling for words as the news was finally starting to sink in last night.


“I don’t know if I am awake or dreaming. It is truly a dream come true. 2010 I think was our first IRONMAORI and I went over to watch some of our competitors from the ‘Bay in the World Championship, that is when I fell in love with IRONMAN.


“I thought I would have to wait another three more years to go in the draw to get an entry, but this is proof you just have to believe, believe that dreams do come true and that anything is possible. No matter how old you are or how fast or slow you are, anything is possible.”


Skipworth is not worried at all about the preparation that will be required to be ready in October, having recently started back into training.


“I will leave that up to Kevin Nicholson, my coach. He will get me ready I will be up to it and I know I can do it; you just don’t let an opportunity like this go by. I had just started training about 12 weeks ago, at first I thought Cam (Harper) was joking and then I thought it might have been for next year! But I will be ready.”


IRONMAORI co-founder and Wayne’s wife Heather will accompany him to Kailua-Kona in October and was complicit in the subterfuge leading into the surprise announcement at a spin class that Wayne was teaching at the IRONMAORI gym.


“Being able to race at Kona is absolutely a dream come true for Wayne. Since we have been involved in the sport, he has always talked about going to Kona and what that would be like, and I am not sure he would get that chance if he had to qualify. Since I got the call from IRONMAN, I have been such a wreck every time I think about what this will mean for Wayne, and for IRONMAORI and all who have taken on that challenge.


“IRONMAN is where the IRONMAORI concept was born and to be able to take the IRONMAORI Kaupapa to Kona with Wayne at the helm will be showing what the possibilities are for all of the IRONMAORI whanau. It’s the equivalent of being named in the All Blacks to us, it really is that important, an opportunity to go to Kona. Anyone can take up the challenge of an IRONMAN, but very few get to race at Kona.”


Heather says Wayne will know that he represents all in the IRONMAORI community.


“Wayne will go with the pride of the entire IRONMAORI community behind him. It’s become more apparent with some of our IRONMAORI qualifying in the past few years just what racing at the home of IRONMAN means to us individually and as a community. For Wayne to now be able to represent IRONMAORI and all Iwi as well as being the IRONMAN New Zealand Ambassador, now that’s all so special.  He’s the king of IRONMAORI, he will make so many proud.


“He’s a good man my husband, he absolutely deserves this. He’s inspired and walked alongside many to achieve their goals in this sport. I was a blubbering mess on Wednesday night when he was told but I think once we get to Kona it will be a surreal and unforgettable moment in time that our children and grandchildren can talk about their father/grandfather who went to Kona.”


Wayne says he can’t imagine travelling or taking on such a special experience without Heather by his side.


“Heather is part of me, we are soul mates and I need her there with me, she has my back and is always there so has to be there with me.”


The World Championship will be Skipworth’s tenth IRONMAN event, a milestone he will achieve in honour of a fallen mate.


“In 2009 I did my first IRONMAN and I saw another guy from Auckland, Henry Tohu. I didn’t know him but thought ‘there is a brother’ and we said hello on course. On the Sunday we met up at the prize giving and we sat with a bunch of Japanese athletes and the ten-year celebration came up and they all went up to get their ten-year shirts. I could sense Henry looking at me and sure enough he said, ‘that is us brother, in ten years we will be walking up there’.


“We shook hands on that commitment, and we did another three IRONMAN events together before Henry got ill and sadly passed away. That has always been a goal of mine to finish off our ten, so far it has taken eleven years, but I am going to do this for Henry.”


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 prior to that he has a bigger race day looming, the chance to line up at the holy grail of IRONMAN, where it all started, at the World Championship in Kailua-Kona.