Inspirational 130kg Māori man quiet achiever in Ironman events

By Numia Ponika-Rangi

Losing weight and gaining health are two reasons why Johnnie Freeland of Tūhoe and Ngāti Te Ata, decided to enter the Ironman competition in March. At 44 years of age and over 130kg Freeland's goal is not to win the Ironman, but to finish it.

An Ironman competition may be easy for many, however for Freeland a long mountainous journey lies ahead.

“I'm on this journey for the health and strength of my body, my spirit and my mind,” says Freeland.

Bernard Te Paa says, “There are 65 Māori competing for the Ironman title, and Johnnie stands out as an inspiration for us to succeed.”

As well as the support of his mates "Team Bros," Freeland was awarded a scholarship from Ironman New Zealand. The scholarship recognises Tony Jackson who competed in 28 Ironman events right up until his death.

Freeland says, “The Ironman scholarship I received was in remembrance of Tony Jackson who inspired a lot of people from diverse communities to take up the Ironman challenge.”

Maria Walker of Ironman New Zealand says, “He was a very quiet achiever just like Johnnie, and we're so excited to see Johnnie cross that finish line and Tony would be very very proud.”

Victory and the title Ironman is not the ultimate goal here.

Freeland says, “I'm on a mission here to swim, ride and run my way to a healthy and fit lifestyle. That's what's important to me.”