Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Kona Preview: Ko Aloha La Ea – Keep Your Love

(Dawn Henry describes this year’s Ironman World Championship theme)

Each year, the Ironman World Championship comes replete with bodies of steel, some of the fittest racers in the sport testing the strength and will of the human body to the limit, age groupers from 18 to 80, stories that warm the human heart, and, without fail, enough drama to stoke the imagination for years to come.

How to encapsulate such a spectacular day into one unifying theme? This is the job of Event Director, Diana Bertsch, and her crew, and each year they manage to find something special. This year’s theme, Ko Aloha La Ea – Keep Your Love, gives the 1,800 entrants a way to live on race day, and perhaps, beyond.

Bertsch explains that this year’s theme comes from a significant moment in Hawaiian history. First, a little background. In 1819, King Kamehameha I, the first king to unify the Hawaiian islands, died, and his son, Liholiho was named King Kamehameha II.

At the same time, the traditional lifestyles of the Hawaiian people were undergoing rapid change, in part because of the increasing exposure of the islands to foreign traders and settlers. Liholiho was immediately at odds with his cousin, High Chief Kekuaokalani about how to lead the Hawaiian people.

Kamehameha II favored abolishing the old religious ways of the islands, known as the Kapu system, while Kekuaokalani fought to retain the Kapu system. The old way of life was in peril, and it caused much conflict within the islands.

The year was 1820. On the Big Island of Hawaii, on the south end of Alii Drive, in Keauhou, this conflict between old ways and new resulted in the Battle of Kuamoo.

Before the battle began, Kekuaokalani’s wife, High Chiefess Manono, expressed her desire to join in the fight. Kekuaokalani discouraged her from joining the battle, but made a platform for her at the battle site so that she could watch the fighting unfold.

The Ironman Kona race office explanation of the theme tells us what happens next. As High Chiefess Manono looked on, Kekuaokalani was killed. The Princess went to her husband, “covered his face, picked up his spear and charged into battle chanting “Ko aloha la ea, Ko aloha la ea” – Keep your love, keep your love.”

Ultimately, King Kamehameha II’s soldiers defeated the forces of Kekuaokalani. High Chiefess Manono was killed in the fighting, along with hundreds of soldiers. The bodies of the soldiers were covered with rocks and remain at the battlefield.

“Today, the Kuamoo Battlefield and the Lekeleke Burial Ground is where heartbreak became a part of history as well as a message to live by: No matter what obstacles come, keep your love. No matter what suffering you face, no matter who you are or where you come from, with love you can surmount anything.

“Today, this historical and significant landmark continues to represent change, passion, principle, excellence, love of life and love for others.”

Big Island resident and triathlete, Alika Hoomana, created artwork to accompany the theme of Ko aloha la ea. Hoomana has been creating artwork for the Ironman World Championship for four years now. He has raced in the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Hawaii in 2010 and 2011.

Hoomana’s swirling design incorporates themes from prior World Championship races and tells the story of how the present moment holds memories of the past and leaves room for the possibilities of the future.

It contains not only Hawaiian designs but those of Polynesia, including Tahiti, the Philippines, and the Maori culture. “We all tie together,” Hoomana said.

The design forms two sides, bound together in the middle with representations of lauhala, a leaf used in Hawaii for weaving, and which represents unity and ohana – the family.

From one tip comes the ihe, or spear, evoking the 2010 theme of Ke Alahele O Ke Koa, the Way of the Warrior, and signifying that there are no limitations.

Emerging from the ihe is an image of the four Gods of Hawaii: Kane, Ku, Lono and Kanaloa. Also included on this side of the design is the wave-like koru, or unfolding fern, which represents “new beginnings where new life and old life come full circle.”

The complementary side of the design is grounded with a representation of kalo, also known as the taro root, a staple food of the islands and a representation of ancestors as well as the foundation of future actions.

It also contains images for both wahine (woman) and kane (man), indicating, Hoomana said, “the need for balance in life,” and the rays of the sun.

Five triangular forms represent the five mountains of the Big Island, “our home here,” Hoomana said. The mountains are framed by a design for bamboo representing, “an unbreakable spirit,” and shark’s teeth, “for protection and strength.”

Emerging from both sides are representations of the ‘iwa bird, signifying change. Hoomana said he sees the ‘iwa birds as a hopeful sign for the future, bringing modern ideas and old traditions together. The birds are flying in the same direction; “eventually, they’ll meet up…. You have to know your past to go forward,” says Hoomana. “If not, you just go in a circle. Once you get stuck, look back. The answers are there.”

Also included on both sides of the design is the symbol for aloha, representing love and compassion, present in the midst of all our journeys.

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