Last month Challenge Wanaka, one of New Zealand’s premier events (and considered possibly the most scenic triathlon in the world) had to be cancelled because of the arrival of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and now the country’s other world-renowned long-distance race, Ironman New Zealand, has been postponed as well.
Ironman New Zealand is the oldest qualifying event for the Ironman World Championship, having become an Ironman qualifying race in 1985. The race was held in Auckland, the country’s largest city, until 1998, before moving to its current site of Taupo.
New Zealand has fared relatively well through the COVID-19 pandemic, having closed its borders early and implementing strict lockdowns. The country, with a population of five million people, has reported 18,837 cases and 53 deaths from the disease. In January, though, the country was forced to move to it’s “level red” protection framework, thanks to the arrival of the Omicron variant to the country. Gatherings are limited to 100 people, making it impossible to host large events like Challenge Wanaka or Ironman New Zealand.
Here’s the announcement the Ironman New Zealand race organizers put up on the event website earlier today:
The Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand team has been working hard behind the scenes to explore every possible option to hold the event as planned on Saturday 5 March. Sadly, we have been unable to find a way to deliver the event under the restrictions of the red setting and still guarantee the safety of our athletes, supporters, staff, volunteers and the local community in Taupō.
We are now in the disappointing position where we can confirm that Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand will not be taking place on 5 March.
We understand just how frustrating this news will be for all athletes. An immense amount of time, energy and sacrifice goes into preparing for an IRONMAN, and to have the opportunity to complete your journey taken away this close to event day is a real kick in the guts. We are so sorry, and we feel just as frustrated and disappointed as you.
With no clear indication on when we might move to the orange setting, and with winter approaching, our best option is for the 2022 Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand to integrate with IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō event on Saturday 10 December 2022. This will make for a very exciting and unique race weekend to finish the year.