Hard yards . . . Mark Esselink's entry to the Kona World Championships has been deferred until 2023. PHOTO: MARATHON-PHOTOS.COM

Ironman Mark Esselink has at least a couple more years of training ahead of him yet, with his entry to the Kona World Championships deferred until 2023.

The Oamaru stock agent qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman earlier in the year and was planning on heading over to race in October, but courtesy of a worldwide pandemic, the odds were stacked against him.

“I looked at going with a group from Australia that specialised in trips to Kona, they’d been doing it for about 20 years … but there were no flights anyway, and they were only looking at resuming them from about September onwards, if they started at all,” he said.

“I didn’t even go to the trouble of trying to get a spot in MIQ [managed isolation and quarantine], because I just heard it was near-on impossible, knowing people that were trying to come back … It was just un-doable, pretty much.”

Ironman New Zealand offered Esselink the chance to defer his entry, but because next year’s race was already full, most likely from last year’s deferred entries, no spot for him was available until 2023.

“I jumped at it. I said ‘yeah, definitely’.

“Hopefully, by that stage, the world’s sort of moved on a bit, and we’ve opened up a bit more and we can travel.”

It was the right call to make, with the announcement this month that this year’s Kona had been postponed until February 2022, he said.

“Which they did last year as well, and then February was cancelled again.”

It would have been “awesome” to go this year, but Esselink still had other events to look forward to and although 2023 seemed a long way off, it would come around reasonably quickly, he said.

“This year’s just sort of zoomed by.”

He would also have the advantage of being one of the younger competitors in his 55-59 age group, rather than one of the oldest in the 50-54 age group, where he would have competed this year.

The training has been adjusted slightly, but Esselink is still keeping active and maintaining a base level of fitness.

“I’ve taken a break for the last couple of months from .. a structured programme. Still doing stuff, but all low-intensity stuff. Just to keep the legs ticking over and remain active.”

The next major event coming up was the 70.3 Ironman in December, followed by Tauranga half Ironman in January and Challenge Wanaka in February.

“So there’s still motivation to keep going.

“You don’t know what’s around the corner with Covid. You know, we only have to get one case in the South Island and things will be shut down pretty quick.

“You just keep going ahead, and if it gets cancelled or postponed, that’s the world we’re living in at the moment, really.”