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Deep Dive Into 2017 Triathlon Money List

For the 2017 season, I’ve been looking at the results of all Ironman and 70.3 races, the Challenge racing series, the highest level of ITU racing (the “World Triathlon Series” WTS) and a few independent races. With this data, I’ve helped Challenge produce their regular Money List updates. Challenge publishes the current Top 50 athletes on their website on a regular basis and will likely to continue to post updates for the 2018 season. This post has a closer look at the different segments and some overall trends for the 2017 season.

Overview

First, here is an overview of the races that are included in the money lists and a comparison to the 2016 season. The total is shown in US$, for races that paid their prize purse in a different currency the amounts have been converted into US$.

Type Description Total Money Change to 2016 # Races # Athletes
Ironman WTC Ironman-branded races $2.676.750 -1,8% 33 284
70.3 WTC 70.3-branded races $2.363.000 -9,8% 73 397
Challenge Challenge-branded full and half-distance
races (incl. European bonus pool)
$1.083.472 22% 34 240
ITU ITU WTS races (incl. bonus pool) $2.335.000 n/a 10 125
Other SuperLeague Hamilton Island and Jersey,
Bilbao Triathlon, Escape From Alcatraz,
Alpe D’Huez L, Embrun, Island House,
ITU Long Distance World Championships,
XTerra World Championships
$1.225.802 n/a 9 117
Total $9.684.024 159 784

Since preparing the Money Lists for 2016, I have added the ITU World Triathlon Series races and a number of non-branded races that also have a significant prize purse. Because these are new or expanded types, it doesn’t make sense to compare the 2016 numbers to the 2017 season.

Comparing the other types between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it’s interesting to note that the prize money in Ironman-branded (-1,8%) and 70.3-branded races (-9,8%) has decreased (total WTC money has decreased by 5,7%) while the Challenge prize money has significantly increased by 22% (and is likely to continue to increase in 2018 with the new prize purse of $200.000 for Challenge Roth).

The number of races includes a few single-gender races in the Ironman and 70.3 categories. Also, the first SuperLeague race on Hamilton Island (AU$ 215.000, roughly US$160.000) was a male-only race. While the total number of races is the sum for each of the categories, the total for the number of athletes can’t be easily added up from the categories as there are a lot of athletes that have been able to make money in different types of races.

Overall Money List

The overall list is of course dominated by athletes that have raced well in the “Big Money Races” such as the Ironman or 70.3 World Championships  ($650.000 and $250.000) or big-purse independent races such as SuperLeague ($130.000) or Island House ($500.000) or those that placed well in a number of ITU WTS races and consequently also in the ITU Bonus Pool ($855.000).

With the exception of second place Daniela Ryf (who won both the Ironman and 70.3 Championships), the top spots are dominated by athletes who made the lion-share of their 2017 prize money in ITU races. It is not a surprise that the best-placed athletes are the overall champions (and therefore winners of the first place in the ITU bonus pool). Flora Duffy had a fantastic season (also winning the XTerra Championships and Island House), as did Mario Mola who also placed well in the first SuperLeague race.

Duffy

It’s interesting to note that this year all the Money Lists (overall and broken down into sub-categories as listed below) are topped by female athletes. However, this is not a sign that it’s “easier” for the women to earn a lot of prize money, but that there are currently very dominating females in the different categories.

# Name Gender Total Money Ironman 70.3 Races Challenge ITU Other
1 Duffy, Flora F $295.500 $215.500 $80.000
2 Ryf, Daniela F $240.101 $150.000 $72.500 $17.601
3 Mola, Mario M $221.539 $178.900 $42.639
4 Gomez, Javier M $196.654 $68.000 $122.600 $6.054
5 Murray, Richard M $173.128 $5.000 $70.450 $97.678
6 Zaferes, Katie F $171.900 $98.900 $73.000
7 Sanders, Lionel M $155.000 $75.000 $40.000 $30.000 $10.000
8 Gentle, Ashleigh F $142.200 $122.200 $20.000
9 Blummenfelt, Kristian M $137.049 $14.000 $102.400 $20.649
10 Charles, Lucy F $128.632 $80.000 $3.500 $45.132
11 Lange, Patrick M $126.500 $123.500 $3.000
12 Crowley, Sarah F $118.250 $100.000 $8.250 $10.000
13 Kienle, Sebastian M $117.500 $67.500 $19.000 $15.000 $16.000
14 Lawrence, Holly F $109.000 $74.000 $35.000
15 Kanute, Ben M $106.950 $24.750 $1.000 $81.200
16 Bozzone, Terenzo M $102.146 $28.000 $27.000 $2.146 $45.000
17 Kasper, Kirsten F $100.350 $69.350 $31.000
18 Hewitt, Andrea F $86.150 $74.150 $12.000
19 Brownlee, Jonathan M $82.550 $70.550 $12.000
20 Van Vlerken, Yvonne F $73.388 $10.500 $5.500 $57.388

WTC Races

The first “sub category” of the Money List I want to take a closer look at is the money earned in WTC races (i.e. Ironman-branded and 70.3-branded races). This list is clearly dominated by athletes that did well in the two “biggest money races”, Kona and the 70.3 Championships – the two top spots are occupied by the Kona winners Daniela Ryf and Patrick Lange.

Daniela Ryf

# Name Gender WTC Money Total Money Overall Rank
1 Ryf, Daniela F $222.500 $240.101 2
2 Lange, Patrick M $126.500 $126.500 11
3 Sanders, Lionel M $115.000 $155.000 7
4 Crowley, Sarah F $108.250 $118.250 12
5 Kienle, Sebastian M $86.500 $117.500 13
6 Charles, Lucy F $83.500 $128.632 10
7 Lawrence, Holly F $74.000 $109.000 14
8 Don, Tim M $70.000 $72.000 21
9 Gomez, Javier M $68.000 $196.654 4
10 Cheetham, Susie F $61.000 $61.000 28
11 Sali, Kaisa F $59.750 $67.506 22
12 McNamee, David M $56.000 $59.756 30
13 Bozzone, Terenzo M $55.000 $102.146 16
14 Cunnama, James M $54.500 $56.003 34
15 Seymour, Jeanni F $52.250 $56.006 33
16 Lyles, Elizabeth F $51.250 $51.250 39
17 Jackson, Heather F $49.500 $49.500 40
18 Amberger, Josh M $48.750 $56.750 32
19 Luxford, Annabel F $47.250 $67.245 23
20 Hoffman, Ben M $46.750 $46.750 41

Ironman (outside of Kona)

When looking at a list just for Ironman races, it’s interesting to exclude Kona (as including Kona would skew the rankings towards those that did well there). Without the Kona money, this list is dominated by multiple winners (or at least podium finishers) such as Sarah Crowley (who won the Regional Championships in Cairns and Frankfurt), Sebastian Kienle (winner in Frankfurt and Cozumel) or Susie Cheetham (third in South Africa and winner in Brasil). Fourth place is tied by the other athletes who won a Regional Championship in 2017.

# Name Gender Ironman Total Money Overall Rank
1 Crowley, Sarah F $60.000 $118.250 12
2 Kienle, Sebastian M $45.000 $117.500 13
3 Cheetham, Susie F $38.000 $61.000 28
4 Ryf, Daniela F $30.000 $240.101 2
4 Don, Tim M $30.000 $72.000 21
4 Sali, Kaisa F $30.000 $67.506 22
4 Amberger, Josh M $30.000 $56.750 32
4 Hoffman, Ben M $30.000 $46.750 41
4 Hanson, Matt M $30.000 $41.250 52
4 Robertson, Jodie F $30.000 $36.750 58
11 Joyce, Rachel F $26.250 $31.000 72
12 Piampiano, Sarah F $25.750 $40.250 54
12 Gossage, Lucy F $25.750 $34.734 65
14 Tajsich, Sonja F $23.500 $23.500 105
15 Roberts, Lisa F $23.000 $41.991 49
15 Currie, Braden M $23.000 $36.350 59
17 Cunnama, James M $22.500 $56.003 34
17 McMahon, Brent M $22.500 $25.500 93
19 Lyles, Elizabeth F $21.500 $51.250 39
19 Buckingham, Kyle M $21.500 $25.500 93

70.3 (outside of 70.3 Championships)

Similar to the Ironman list above, leaving out the Championships shows athletes that have raced well across a number of 70.3s in the 2017 season. The list is topped by Holly Lawrence (winner of six 70.3s), Jeanni Seymour (five wins) or Lionel Sanders (four 70.3 wins).

# Name Gender 70.3 Money Total Money Overall Rank
1 Lawrence, Holly F $74.000 $109.000 14
2 Seymour, Jeanni F $46.750 $56.006 33
3 Sanders, Lionel M $40.000 $155.000 7
4 Appleton, Sam M $35.000 $61.995 27
5 Salthouse, Ellie F $27.750 $46.750 41
6 Ryf, Daniela F $27.500 $240.101 2
7 Bozzone, Terenzo M $27.000 $102.146 16
8 Collington, Kevin M $25.250 $32.750 67
9 Don, Tim M $25.000 $72.000 21
10 Wilson, Dan M $23.750 $29.804 74
11 Gomez, Javier M $23.000 $196.654 4
12 Roy, Stephanie F $22.750 $22.750 110
13 Withrow, Kelsey F $22.500 $22.500 112
14 Reed, Tim M $21.250 $26.839 87
15 Butterfield, Tyler M $21.000 $35.000 62
15 Watkinson, Amelia F $21.000 $24.500 101
17 Brownlee, Alistair M $20.000 $41.756 50
18 True, Sarah F $19.750 $45.750 44
18 Pallant, Emma F $19.750 $43.506 48
20 Jackson, Heather F $19.500 $49.500 40

Challenge

The Challenge money list is dominated by athletes who focused their summer racing on the European Challenge races and placing well in the Challenge Bonus Pool (140.000€, about US$ 150.000). Yvonne Van Vlerken won the Bonus Pool by placing third at Challenge Roth, winning Challenge Almere and placing well in five Challenge half-distance races (even if she didn’t win any of them). Joe Skipper and Lukas Kraemer shared the win in the male bonus pool.

# Name Gender Challenge Money Total Money Overall Rank
1 Van Vlerken, Yvonne F $57.388 $73.388 20
2 Siddall, Laura F $48.992 $65.742 25
3 Charles, Lucy F $45.132 $128.632 10
4 Skipper, Joe M $39.064 $40.064 55
5 Kraemer, Lukas M $34.933 $34.933 63
6 Wurtele, Heather F $30.752 $56.002 35
7 Sanders, Lionel M $30.000 $155.000 7
8 Heemeryck, Pieter M $28.882 $38.382 56
9 Goos, Sofie F $27.420 $32.420 69
10 Steger, Thomas M $22.752 $24.002 102
11 Luxford, Annabel F $19.995 $67.245 23
12 Aernouts, Bart M $18.352 $23.352 106
13 Ryf, Daniela F $17.601 $240.101 2
14 Croneborg, Fredrik M $17.586 $19.586 129
15 Allan, Dougal M $17.578 $25.328 95
16 Kienle, Sebastian M $15.000 $117.500 13
17 Raphael, Jan M $14.756 $14.756 151
18 Krivankova, Simona F $12.021 $12.021 186
19 Wurtele, Trevor M $10.676 $15.426 146
20 Phillips, Mike M $10.080 $23.330 107

ITU

As noted above, the ITU Money List is a reflection of the order of athletes in the final WTS rankings, the top athletes are this year’s champions Flora Duffy and Mario Mola.

# Name Gender ITU Money Total Money Overall Rank
1 Duffy, Flora F $215.500 $295.500 1
2 Mola, Mario M $178.900 $221.539 3
3 Gomez, Javier M $122.600 $196.654 4
4 Gentle, Ashleigh F $122.200 $142.200 8
5 Blummenfelt, Kristian M $102.400 $137.049 9
6 Zaferes, Katie F $98.900 $171.900 6
7 Hewitt, Andrea F $74.150 $86.150 18
8 Brownlee, Jonathan M $70.550 $82.550 19
9 Murray, Richard M $70.450 $173.128 5
10 Kasper, Kirsten F $69.350 $100.350 17
11 Alarza, Fernando M $60.450 $60.450 29
12 Luis, Vincent M $59.650 $59.650 31
13 Learmonth, Jessica F $53.950 $53.950 36
14 Bishop, Thomas M $43.600 $43.600 47
15 Brown, Joanna F $41.500 $41.500 51
16 Birtwhistle, Jake M $39.550 $65.753 24
17 Klamer, Rachel F $37.250 $64.250 26
18 Le Corre, Pierre M $35.400 $35.400 61
19 Sissons, Ryan M $33.100 $33.100 66
20 Spivey, Taylor F $30.050 $31.050 71
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Age of Kona Winners

After the latest race in Kona it’s time to update my graph on the Age of Kona Winners. Technically, the graphs show the how old the winners of Ironman Hawaii (mostly Kona, but also the early years on Oahu) at the time that they won the race. (Click on the images for high-res versions.)

AgeKonaWinners

A few observations:

  • The winnings streaks of Dave Scott (six times between 1980 and 1987) and Mark Allen (six times between 1989 and 1995) clearly stand out.
  • Paula Newby-Fraser’s eight wins occurred over a span of ten years (1986 to 1996).
  • Natascha Badmann took six wins over seven years, her reign was broken twice by Lori Bowden.
  • The progression of the men’s winners in the early 2000s looks like another dynasty, in fact it’s three different athletes (Stadler, McCormack and Alexander) that are almost the same age.
  • In the last few years, there are three “serial winners” on the female side: Chrissie Wellington (four wins), Mirinda Carfrae and Daniela Ryf (both three wins).

Here is another view on the data:

AgeKonaWinnersBar

This “text bar chart” makes it easier to spot a few other things:

  • The youngest female winners are Kathleen McCartney (1982) and Sylviane Puntous (1983) at 22 years.
  • The youngest male winner was Scott Tinley (also in 1982) with 25 years.
  • Most of the “young winners” are from the early years of the race. Daniela Ryf was the youngest winner in the 2000s, she was 28 in 2015, but there were eleven female winners that were younger than her. On the male side, Faris Al-Sultan was 27 when he won in 2005, he’s the only winner in the 2000s who was younger than 30.
  • Craig Alexander (2011) and Natascha Badmann (2005) are the oldest male winner at 38 years of age.
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New Pro Qualifying System

Ironman has announced a new system qualifying Pros for Kona. Some of the initial reactions were quite positive, but with the timing of the announcement I was sceptical: Typically the “low news” time around Christmas is best for news not intended to get much attention. So let’s unpack the announcement and discuss the changes the new system will bring .. even if posting this on Christmas Eve might result in not too many readers. (Happy Holidays to you if read this during the Christmas Days!)

Still no Equality in Kona … In Fact Hardly Any Change at All

When quickly reading the Ironman press release, the main point you notice that “slot allocations will be equal for both male and female professional athletes”. The “featured image” is a jubilant Michelle Vesterby, further enhancing the perception that this is great for female athletes. However, the sentence I quoted is preceded by the qualifier “base” and followed by “additional slots being distributed to events based on the number of professional starters”. Only when looking closer what this will mean for races and the gender distribution it becomes apparent that the overwhelming majority of these “additional slots” will be allocated to the male Pros, and that the breakdown of the Kona field will be very similar to what it is now (roughly 40 females and 60 males, see my post Estimating the Gender Distribution for Kona). The females will have to constitute about 38% of the total Pro field (the 2017 average was 33.9%) before they have a chance of snagging one of the floating slots.

From an equality perspective, probably the only advantage of the slot system is that increased female Pro participation can lead to more female Kona slots, whereas the KPR system fixed the number of slots. However, I don’t like that this pits the female Pros against the male Pros – if the women want more slots, they have to “take” them from the men. This is counter-productive for growing Pro racing and the sport as a whole.

Equality is also a glaring contradiction in the new Ironman system: While Kona won’t have equal Pro slots, the 70.3 Championships provides the same 85 slots for both the male and females. Ironman has to be applauded for equal slots at the 70.3 Champs, but their argument of “increasing the female field in Kona would dilute the field too much” is making less and less sense. It’s also hard to see why there are 85 Championship-worthy women on the 70.3 distance, but no more than 40 on the full distance.

From the equality viewpoint, the new system is a “meh” – hardly any change. It would be so easy to provide equal slots for male and females in Kona – just provide the same number of floating slots to males and females! They don’t even have to be assigned to the same races, you could showcase the female Pros in a couple of races by assigning two additional slots just to the females (of course offset by races with only additional slots for the men).

Less Racing Required To Qualify

When looking through the changes the new system would have made to the Kona 2017 field (see my post Determining the Kona 2017 With the New Slot System) one big advantage for athletes is obvious: One great result (resulting in a win in an Ironman) is enough for a Kona slot – the new system’s quick summary could be “win and you’re in”. In the KPR system, most male athletes had to race at least two IMs and most females three IMs or more to score enough points to secure a slot. This aspect is a great benefit especially to the female athletes – the KPR system forced them to race more often than the male Pros as they needed more points to qualify. Of course there is a drawback for the second tier athletes that were consistently racing well but not winning races: It’ll be a lot harder for them to make it to Kona now as qualifying with a third or fourth place needs a big element of luck (athletes finishing in front have to decline their slots).

In an indirect way, this also addresses the issue of female Pros returning after their pregnancy to racing: Often they couldn’t race a full season to collect points, for example in 2017 Rachel Joyce or Eva Wutti only started racing in March when more than the half of the season was already gone and most athletes were already way ahead of them. It took Rachel three full IMs to make up this deficit, while even a win and a second place were not enough for Eva. With the new system in place, their first good IM would have been enough to qualify them for Kona: Rachel won IM Boulder and Eva won IM Austria.

The new system is also good as a lot of athletes secure their Kona slot early in the season (well before the current first cutoff at the end of July) and are then able to plan their season without having to focus on scoring more points to qualify. This probably won’t matter to the very best athletes – they didn’t have to worry too much about qualifying anyways. But overall a lot more athletes can be rested and in top shape on the Kona start line, probably making the race in Kona even tighter and more exciting than it already is.

Overall, the fact that less racing gets you to Kona addresses a big deficiency of the KPR system and gets a “thumbs up”.

Decreased Weight of Kona and 70.3s

Under the new system, only the Top 3 finishers in Kona will secure an AQ slot for the following year (validation still required). Under the KPR system, you could pretty much secure your slot after a Top 10 finish in Kona by racing another late season Ironman (some popular choices in November or December were Arizona, Cozumel or Western Australia). On the back of Kona fitness, a Top 6 finish was achievable in the usually relatively small fields. This will no longer be enough to qualify – even after a Kona Top 10 a win will still be needed.

Also, 70.3s don’t play any role in Kona qualifying at all (unless you win the 70.3 Champs). This is also a good development, sometimes lots of 70.3 points made it relatively easy to qualify for Kona. Altogether, another positive change.

Number of Qualifiers Tied To Number of Pro Races

As each of the Pro races creates at least one slot for the male and female racers, the number of athletes in Kona and the 70.3 Champs can’t be any lower than the number of Pro races. Currently, this will make it quite hard to reduce the number of male athletes in Kona – even though a lot of Pros would have preferred smaller fields to allow for a “cleaner” race. Fewer Kona Pros would only be possible with a reduced number of Pro races. So far Ironman has not indicated that they want to shrink the Pro calendar, and there are good arguments for an expansion in the Asian market. Still, the overall reduction in Ironman prize money (6% less in 2017 as compared to 2016) could also indicate fewer races in the future – we’ll probably have to wait for Ironman to indicate what their plans are going to be.

Tying the number of races to the number of qualifiers leads to the huge number of 170 Pro athletes for the 70.3 Championships, almost twice the number of Pros in Kona. The actual number of athletes on the start line will likely be lower. For example, this year’s 70.3 Champs in Chattanooga had more about 55 male and female qualifiers who accepted their slots, but only 33 males and 36 females actually racing.

Overall, “one race, one slot” isn’t much of a problem for Kona qualifying but creates a huge field for the 70.3 Champs. Unless a lot of athletes decide not to race, this is likely a “breaking point”, leading either to fewer Pro 70.3s or to 70.3s that offer a Pro category and prize money but no Kona slots.

Overall Assessment

To me, the benefit of the old KPR system was that it provided a lot of analysis opportunity for data geeks like me. So far I haven’t heard anyone who is sorry to see the KPR to disappear. The slot system is definitely an improvement by removing a lot of the criticisms of the KPR, but the way it is proposed for now it still falls short of providing equality in Kona.

Determining the Kona 2017 Pro Field With the New Slot System

This post has a closer look at how qualifying for Kona would have turned out if the new Kona Pro Qualifying System had been in place. Of course athletes would have adapted to the new system, probably choosing different races, but going through a few examples gives a good indication of how the new system will work and how it might change the Kona field and racing during the season.

Kona_RuediWild

Slot Assignment Examples

Ironman New Zealand

As discussed in my previous post on the Gender Distribution for Kona, New Zealand is a likely candidate for a race with an extra two slots. First, let’s determine how the slots get assigned to the male and female fields:

  • Number of Starters: 17 female, 23 male
  • Base slot calculation: 1.7 female, 2.3 male (calculated as fraction of starters times total number of slots)
  • First round of slots: 1 female, 2 male (based on the integer part of the base slots)
  • Remainder: 0.7 female, 0.3 male (fractional part of the base slots)
  • As the female remainder is larger than the male, the remaining slot is assigned to the females.

We end up two slots for both the males and the females.

Here are the top finishers in New Zealand and who would have received the qualifying slots:

  • Male Winner: Braden Curry
  • Male Second: Cameron Brown
  • Female Winner: Jocelyn McCauley (already qualified by winning IM Mallorca earlier, slot rolling down)
  • Female Second: Laura Siddall
  • Female Third: Meredith Kessler (already qualified by winning IM Arizona earlier, slot rolling down)
  • Female Fourth: Annabel Luxford

Ironman Germany

As a regional Championship, Germany receives two base slots for each gender plus another two floating slots. The floating slots would be determined as follows:

  • Number of Starters: 18 female, 50 male
  • Base slot calculation: 1.6 female, 4.4 male (calculated as fraction of starters times total number of slots)
  • First round of slots: 2 female, 4 male (based on the integer part of the base slots and the number of base slots)
  • No more slots to assign

As for all of the Regionals in 2017, the females would have only been racing for their two base slots while the males would have four slots, two base slots plus both the floating slots.

Here’s the resulting slot assignment:

  • Male Winner: Sebastian Kienle (Automatic Qualifier as previous Kona winner, slot rolling down)
  • Male Second: Andi Boecherer
  • Male Third: Patrik Nilsson (already qualified as winner of IM Barcelona, slot rolling down)
  • Male Fourth: James Cunnama
  • Male Fifth: Ivan Tutukin
  • Male Sixth: Patrick Lange (AQ as third in previous Kona race, slot rolling down)
  • Male Seventh: Marko Albert
  • Female Winner: Sarah Crowley (already qualified as winner of IM Cairns, slot rolling down)
  • Female Second: Lucy Charles (already qualified as winner of IM Lanzarote, slot rolling down)
  • Female Third: Alexandra Tondeur
  • Female Fourth: Liz Lyles (already qualified as winner of IM Wisconsin, slot rolling down)
  • Female Fifth: Michaela Herlbauer (already qualified as second at IM Texas, slot rolling down)
  • Female Sixth: Sonja Tajsich (already qualified as second at IM Brasil, slot rolling down)
  • Female Seventh: Dimity-Lee Duke

As you can see, there are a number of athletes who raced in Frankfurt as they still needed the points to qualify under the existing KPR system. If the new system had been in place, they might have decided not to race but instead to focus on their Kona prep.

Qualified Under the Slot System

Here are a couple of athletes that would have received a Kona slot under the new system but didn’t qualify under the points-based system. I’ve tried to group them into categories to show commonalities:

  • IM Winners but not enough additional good results to get a KPR slot
    Catherine Faux (winner IM Vichy), Darbi Roberts (winner IM Wales), Danielle Mack (winner IM Taiwan), Eva Wutti (winner IM Austria), Daniela Saemmler (winner IM Hamburg), Fredrik Croneborg (winner IM Malaysia), Jeff Symonds (Second at IM Chattanooga, but winner Marino Vanhoenacker likely declining his slot)
  • Getting a relatively “high” rolldown slot
    Jordan Monnink (third at IM Mont Tremblant), Victor Del Corral (fifth at IM France), Kelly Williamson (fourth at IM Boulder)

Not Qualified Under the Slot System

Of course there are also athletes that were good at collecting points for the KPR but wouldn’t have qualified with the new slot system:

  • Podium results, but no wins
    Jesse Thomas (third IM Lanzarote, second in two 70.3s) Lauren Brandon (second IM Cozumel, sixth IM Texas), Markus Fachbach (second IM Mallorca, third IM Hamburg), Cameron Wurf (tons of races, including a second at IM Sweden), Mareen Hufe (second places at IM Malaysia and IM Western Australia)
  • Good Kona, but no wins during the season
    Boris Stein (secured his slot with a sixth at IM South Africa after a seventh in Kona), Ivan Rana (after a ninth in Kona a fifteenth place in Austria and a few 70.3 points were good enough), Anja Beranek (got her slot after her fourth place in Kona with an eighth place at IM Germany), Asa Lundstroem (was safe for Kona after a fourth place at IM Western Australia and an eighth place in Hawaii), Camilla Pedersen (after an eleventh in Kona and a third at IM Cozumel a few 70.3 points were enough for her slot)
  • Many 70.3 points, but no IM wins
    Ruedi Wild (he scored almost 3.000 points just by racing 70.3s)

Additional Observations

There are a few more things I noticed when I simulated the 2017 qualifying season:

  • Much earlier decisions for declines
    With the KPR declines only happened after the qualifying periods (end of July and end of August). With the slot-based system the decision whether to accept or decline a slot has to be made the day after the race. For example, IM Chattanooga winner Marino Vanhoenacker would have needed to decide in September 2016 instead of August 2017.
  • No provisions for “late rolldown” if racing in Kona is not possible
    Meredith Kessler won IM Arizona in November 2016, she declined her slot in July 2017 as she got pregnant in February. (Baby boy “MAK” has been born by now.) Another example is Will Clarke who suffered a shoulder injury in August. Both were not able to race in Kona and declined their slots who then rolled down to the next athletes. Under the new system, once a slot has been accepted (which Meredith would have in November and Will in April), the slots wouldn’t have rolled down when they were forced to decline.
    (This will also impact the size of the Pro field in the 70.3 Championships. Even though there are about 85 slots for each gender, the number of actual starters is likely to be much lower.)
  • Late season racing still allows for Kona even if not initially planned
    When Daniela Sammler planned her season, she focused on IM Hamburg in August, even if that meant she wouldn’t be able to race Kona (to have a chance to qualify she would have needed more points before Hamburg). Under the new system, her win in Hamburg meant that she could have raced Kona instead of ending her season at IM Barcelona.
  • Much less racing needed for a slot
    Especially the women had to do a lot of racing to secure the points required for a Kona slot. Laura Siddall needed to race IM Australia (which she won) even after her third place at IM Malaysia and second place at IM New Zealand to get the required points. Rachel Joyce (coming back from her pregnancy) won IM Boulder (which would have secured her slot under the new system) but then had to also race IM Canada and IM Mont Tremblant, likely ruining her chances to have a good race in Kona. Another example is Eva Wutti: Her win at IM Austria (also coming back from a pregnancy break) would have secured a slot, but with the KPR system even a second place IM Hamburg wasn’t enough for a KPR Kona slot.

I’m also working on another post summarizing the changes that the new system is likely to bring, likely to be published over the Christmas days.

(Photo: Ruedi Wild on the bike in Kona. Credit: Jay Prasuhn)

Estimating the Gender Distribution for Kona Pro Race 2019

On December 20th, Ironman has announced a new system for Pros qualifying for Kona (Press Release on the Ironman website). Starting with qualifying for Kona 2019, the system will revert from the Kona Pro Ranking (KPR) back to a slot-based system. This post tries to estimate the resulting number of females and males that are likely to receive slots for Kona. It is the first one of a series that looks into the implications of the new system, more will be released over the next days.

FLOWSKonaStart

Basic Slot Count

In the 2017 Kona qualifying season (i.e. races from September 2016 to August 2017) there have been 32 different Professional Ironman races, including Kona, five Regional Championships, 20 regular IMs with both male and female races and six single-gender IMs.

Let’s have a look at the base slots for the different race categories:

  • Kona: Podium finishers (first, second and third) will get a slot for the next year (which still needs validation by finishing another Ironman race during the season)
    -> 3 slots per gender
  • Regional Championships: Each of the Regionals gets two male and two female base slots (plus two more “floating” slots, see next section). There were five Regionals in the 2017 season, that number decreases to four in the 2018 season with Brasil no longer a Regional Championship, but might increase again in 2019.
    -> 2 slots per gender (5 times)
  • Regular IMs: For each gender there were 23 regular IMs (P-2000 IMs in the KPR system).
    -> 23 base slots per gender

Summing up, the total number of base slots per gender is 36.

There will also be Automatic Qualifier slots for Kona winners for five years and for the 70.3 Champion from the previous season (all requiring validation). The actual number of AQ slots depends on how many different athletes have been able to win Kona in the last five years and if the 70.3 Champion decides to race Kona the year after. A rough estimate is two more AQ slots per gender (in addition to the current Kona champion).

Floating Slots for Regionals

Looking at the 2017 Regional Championships, here is how their two floating slots per race would have been assigned:

  • Ironman South Africa: 26 females, 37 males -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Texas: 21 females, 35 males -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Brasil: 18 females, 29 males -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Cairns: 13 females, 27 females -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Frankfurt: 18 females, 50 males -> 2 male slots

With the 2017 participation numbers, all floating slots from the Regional Championships would have been assigned to the male Pros, i.e. places 1 to 4 of the MPROs would have received a Kona slot while only the first two finishers of the females. It was closest in South Africa, just one more female racing would have created an even split of slots.

Remaining Floating Slots

In order to reach the intended number of 100 Pros racing in Kona, there are another 14 slots that will be assigned as floating slots to the other races. Assuming that there are always going to be an even number of slots for a race, there are likely seven Ironman races with additional floating slots. The number of male and female Pros racing there will determine the distribution of these slots between male and female Pros.

To get an indication of how the final split between male and female Pros is going to end up, here is the distribution if the floating slots would have been assigned to the highest paying races in the 2017 season. Here are these races (including the combined single-gender races), their split of female and male athletes in 2017 and how the floating slots would have been assigned:

  • Ironman Wisconsin / Chattanooga: 12 female, 25 male -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Arizona: 25 female, 45 male -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Cozumel: 19 female, 34 male -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman New Zealand: 17 female, 23 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot
  • Ironman Boulder: 10 female, 15 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot
  • Ironman France: 6 female, 18 male -> 2 male slots
  • Ironman Lake Placid / Canada: 17 female, 29 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot

Under these assumptions, the participation in four races with floating slots would have led to two male slots, the remaining three would have had an even split between male and female slots. Overall, three of the 14 floating slots would be assigned to the females and eleven to the male Pros. (While you can debate this selection of races, they are probably even slightly optimistic for the females. Among the 23 regular IMs, only 6 or roughly a quarter of all races had a strong enough female participation to lead to an even split of slots.)

Summary of Likely Slots Distribution

Here’s a summary of the likely distribution of Pro slots:

  • 36 base slots for each gender
  • 2 additional Automatic Qualifier slots for each gender
  • 10 male floating slots from the Regional Championships
  • 3 female and 11 male floating slots from the regular Ironman races

This would mean a total of 41 female slots and 59 male slots. In Kona 2017, there were 40 females and 58 male Pros on the start list. The proportion of male and female Pros would be pretty much unchanged between the old KPR system and the new slots-based system.

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