Iron Maori gains momentum in Nelson
The South Island's first Iron Maori competition, held in Nelson at the weekend, has won a new legion of fans.
About 100 competitors, including individuals and marae groups from as far away as Blenheim, Christchurch, Wellington and Hawke's Bay travelled to bike, run and swim their way around one of two courses at Broadgreen Intermediate and Nayland Pool on Saturday.
Heather Te Au-Skipworth, who is of Ngai Tahu descent, founded Iron Maori with friends Missy and George Mackey and her husband, Wayne, in Hawke's Bay in 2009.
She said the first Iron Maori drew 300 competitors, but events at home were now capped at 2500 entries.
Mrs Te Au-Skipworth said people who saw the signs up for Iron Maori on the street sometimes complained that the event excluded Pakeha, but all ethnicities were welcome. She said she had targeted the triathlon at Maori because of their poor health statistics.
A former lifestyle coach for overweight Maori and Pacific Islanders, Mrs Te Au-Skipworth said she first thought of a triathlon for her clients because swimming and cycling were low weight-bearing exercises.
"I thought they could just walk the running part and then get on the bike and in the pool."
"After I made them do that, I thought, ‘Heck, I'd better do it myself and practise what I preach."'
When Mrs Te Au-Skipworth crossed the finish line of her first New Zealand Iron Man competition, she was determined to find a way to help her clients experience the "amazing sense of achievement" she felt, and Iron Maori was born.
She said this sense of achievement was evident in Nelson on Saturday. One man had told her husband that Iron Maori was the first triathlon he had ever entered.
"He said he felt absolutely knackered but he thought it was his kind of sport." Nelson City Council executive manager for community relations Geoff Mullen, who took part, said it was a collaboration between local government, health agencies and community groups..