De Ironman Nieuw-Zeeland 2012 zal mogelijk de geschiedenis ingaan als de meest twijfelachtige ooit. Door het stormweer in Taupo dit weekend werd de Ironman afstand in eerste instantie ingekort tot een 70.3. Maar ook het zwemnummer leek lange tijd onzeker. Uiteindelijk konden de atleten zondagochtend plaatselijke tijd toch het water in duiken. Onder hen onze landgenoot Marino Vanhoenacker. Die had na zijn winst in de 70.3 van Zuid-Afrika graag uitgepakt op de volledige afstand, maar wist nu ook in Nieuw-Zeeland op de halve afstand zijn wedstrijd perfect in te delen. Ondanks de felle stormwind zette Marino met 2u12’19 de snelste fietstijd neer. In het fietsen maakte hij deel uit van een selecte kopgroep, waaruit Terenzo Bozzone en Tim Reed in het lopen achtereenvolgens de leiding namen. Op drie kilometer van de finish achtte Bink Marino zijn moment gekozen. Hij liet Reed achter zich en liep op indrukwekkende wijze naar zijn tweede overwinning van het seizoen. Tim Reed werd tweede, Cameron Brown derde. Bij de dames was Meredith Kessler de sterkste, voor Kate Bevilaqua die Jo Lawn in de spurt klopte voor het zilver.
Op Ironmanlive.com gaf Marino het volgende interview (in het Engels):
He might be better known for putting in a blistering pace at Ironman Austria last year to claim the fastest Ironman time ever but the Kelloggs Nutri-Grain 70.3 winner Marino Vanhoenacker says this was one tough race. â€¨â€¨The Belgium arrived in New Zealand over a month ago to give himself time to acclimatise and get to know the Taupo course but when the weather gods upset the apple cart Marino was lost.â€¨â€¨ He said, â€œI just didnâ€™t know what to do with myself when they talked about cancellation or that the swim leg was in danger of being cut from the race. I had so many doubts in my mind because this isnâ€™t what Iâ€™d come to do. I was ready for an Ironman distance nothing less. And on Saturday when I should have been racing I had to find something to do to take my mind off it so I rented a stack of videos and just watched them all dayâ€. He said, â€œEven as a pro with many years experience I had so many mixed feelings and last night it was tough hearing the wind blowing till the early hours of the morningâ€.â€¨â€¨
With expectations high for Marino before the weather turned to custard he remained in a solid position throughout the race but had problems in the swim. He says, â€œI lost my goggles after just 200 meters and had to stop and try and retrieve them, then when I got back to swimming I swallowed water and panicked a bit, I thought I was going to drown it was rough out there. Then when I finally got my rhythm back I looked up and realised I was in the front pack of swimmers. When I came out of the water I couldnâ€™t see any of the other lead swimmers because I was so focussed and I worried I was going to be going out on the bike on my own but then Terenzo and Cameron Brown appeared and all was goodâ€.
“Once on the bike I tried to drop the hammer but the guys were working so hard together I couldnâ€™t make any in-roads, so apart from a few changes on the front of the pack I just stayed with the guys until I got to T2. I knew I had to have a quick transition to be able to stick with the likes of Terenzo and so got into a rhythm straight away and although I was a few minutes down I knew that I could close the gap and as that gap became smaller and smaller I just never gave up and dropped the hammer to take first place.”
“As for what comes next – well I donâ€™t need to go to Melbourne and I have plenty of points to go towards Kona so Iâ€™ll probably just chill out for a while.” Asked if he felt the pressure on him as the Ironman distance record holder, with a time of 7.46 he said, â€œSurprisingly no, but the weather, yep that really messed with my head and so Iâ€™ll take this experience away with me for the future because it could happen anywhere.â€