2016 Kona Pro Qualifying in Five Charts

While 2016 Kona Pro Qualifying takes a bit of a breather after the fall races, I wanted to discuss a few charts and observations about this qualifying cycle. The KPR rules itself haven’t changed, but there are some subtle issues that will impact how the season develops.

Ironman Races Qualifying for Kona 2016

Here is an overview of the Ironman races that offer qualifying points for the first cutoff at the end of July for Kona 2016. To be exact, the first of these races was IM Vichy on August 30th, the last ones will be IM Switzerland, IM Lake Placid (WPRO only) and IM Whistler (MPRO only) on July 24th.

The following table shows for each of the continents and months when IM races with a Pro category will be (the numbers correspond to the day of the race):

IMRaces

The only Ironman not shown here is IM Hawaii, which is an 8000 points race in October, but as a World Championship it doesn’t really “belong” to one continent. In addition, there will be some more Ironman races in August, but these haven’t been finalized yet and are not included in any further graphs.

KPR Points in IMs Per Continent From 2014 to 2016

The following chart shows how the total number of KPR points per continent has changed over the last few years (again excluding the August races but showing “Kona” as a separate category):

KPRYears

Some observations about the developments:

  • The number of North American IMs has been shrinking (Wisconsin and Florida no longer a Pro race in 2016, and Coeur d’Alene moves to August probably without a Pro category).
  • Growth in Europe continues (IM Vichy as an additional race in the 2016 season), overtaking North America as the continent with the most IM races and KPR points.
  • There have been declines in Asia (IM Taiwan moving to October, Pro category not clear; also cancellation of IM Japan in August), Australia (cancellation of IM Melbourne) and South America (Fortaleza without a Pro race in 2016 season)

Some of these changes are short term changes that will probably be reversed in the following years, for example Ironman has expressed their interest in expanding in the Asian market. But I expect the trend of fewer Pro races to continue, and probably be extended from North America to other continents. The way I see it, this is a likely change for the expected 2017 redesign of the KPR.

Breakdown Of 2016 Points By Continent

The reduced number of IM Pro races has been most pronounced in North America. The following chart shows the distribution of the 2016 KPR points (excluding Kona) available in the different continents:

KPRPoints

This corresponds quite well to the number of races: Europe has 10 of 22 non-Kona races (45%), while North America only has 5 (23%).

Breakdown Of 2016 Prize Money By Continent

There is less of a disadvantage for North America when considering the Prize Purse:

KPRPrizePurse

Most of the North American IMs are races with a 100k$ prize purse, while a lot of the European races only offer 25k$ for the field.

Breakdown of 2015 Pro Finishers Per Continent

To build an opinion if Ironman’s distribution of races is detrimental to North American Pros, one has to consider where the Pros are from. The next chart breaks down the number of Ironman finishers in 2015 season Pro races based on athlete’s nationality and corresponding continent:

ProFinishers

(I could have included a similar chart showing the number of Pros qualified for Kona per continent, but the distribution is almost identical and wouldn’t have provided additional information.)

Comparing the points distribution to the distribution of the athletes:

  • Europe has the most Pros and also the largest number of points. Still there are only 41% of the points for 52% of the Pros.
  • There is also a gap for North America, but the difference is smaller (22% of points for 28% of the Pros).
  • Australia has more points than their share of Pros would indicate (19% of the points vs. 13% of the Pros).
  • The continents with fewer Pros have a larger share of points, especially South America and Africa who only have between 1% and 3% of the Pros but 4% to 7% of the points.

Summary

Comparing the continents based on the nationality of athletes may not be completely fair to North America, as there are a lot of non-US athletes that have moved to the US or at least spend a considerable time there. But the number of IMs in North America is still roughly fitting as North America has a larger share of the prize money and also a larger number of 70.3s (in the 2015 season, there have been 17 in Europe and 25 in North America) which should help both the established Pros and the athletes still growing in the Pro ranks. However, qualifying for Kona as a Pro is more and more a year-round and global endeavor, one that needs careful planning and almost flawless execution.

If you are interested in Pro qualifying, you should subscribe to the 2016 KPR Observer newsletter!
More details can be found here.

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