Over the last weeks, there has been a lot of discussion around the issue of Women Pro slots for Kona. Tawnee and I have repeatedly discussed what was happening on our EndurancePlanet podcast, and I thought that this is a good time to sum up the recent developments and issues.
In the summer of 2013, the issue of extra Kona slots for women Pros has been raised by Rachel Joyce in a witsup article. Last year, the discussion never really gained momentum. Then in July 2014, a new Twitter account with the name of „50WomenToKona“ took up the issue, contacted a lot of triathletes, managed to get a lot of interest and is still actively pushing the issue.
To sum up the discussion, the argument for men to have more slots than women is based on the fact that there are more men participating in Ironman events, both at the age group and the Professional level. The counter arguments are that participation numbers shouldn’t determine the size of the field for Championship events, that the top end of the field of the women is as close as for the men, and that women simply deserve equal treatment in 2014.
Boulder Meeting (Early August)
With the mounting pressure around the number of Kona slots, a meeting was set up between WTC CEO Andrew Messick and a number of Pro women in the week before IM Boulder. Other Pros had the chance to at least listen to the discussion via a conference call. I was not part of this meeting, so I have to rely on the accounts of the meeting – mostly from interviews by Andrew (with Triathlete and with Slowtwitch) and an interview that Mirinda Carfrae did with Triathlete.
Among other things discussed, Andrew acknowledged the push for extra slots, but instead of agreeing to something specific, he indicated that
„[t]he women we talked to were not at all focused on a specific number, they just wanted it to be the same. So we’re going to look at that for 2015, [… asking] what is the right number of professional athletes that should be starting at the world championship.”
Since that interview, I have not seen this issue discussed in public except for a few tweets by Jordan Rapp, and no final decision has been announced by WTC.
Extra Slots for 2014?
Another issue discussed in the Boulder meeting was extra women Pro slots for 2014. I don’t have any official information on this, most of what is in the public was written by Jordan Rapp in a thread on the Slowtwitch forum.
Apparently, WTC offered extra WPRO slots for 2014 – either an extra 10 or 15 slots. (There is conflicting information about this.) I’m not aware of the specific procedure that these slots would have been assigned (e.g. how many extra July and/or August slots), but the Pro women were to agree whether or not to have extra slots for 2014. (Again, specific details are sketchy – was that just a majority decision or did a decision require unanimity?) In case the WPROs decided to accept the extra slots, they were expected to participate in a one-day event focused on „women issues“. (Once again, unclear if this was to be an internal workshop or a „PR event“ for WTC.) All of the Top 50 women were given a chance to weigh in (coordinated by Rachel Joyce), and the decision would be made by the athletes already qualified at that point (28 point slots at the end of July plus automatic qualifiers).
The extra slots didn’t get the required support, the main argument was that „moving the goalposts“ wouldn’t be fair: Some athletes raced another IM to make sure they qualify (e.g. Natascha Badmann and Kristin Möller who backed up in Switzerland after Germany), some decided to have a lighter schedule (e.g. Amy Marsh who tried to qualify with another 70.3 or Angela Naeth who decided against racing another IM). Other examples include Mareen Hufe who might not have DNF’d in Frankfurt after it was clear she would not get the points to get a spot in the Top 28 for July; and there are probably athletes – further away form the Top 28 or 35 – who might have added another race to their schedule.
Lots of Open Questions
As far as I can see, the only thing that seems certain is that there will be no changes in the number of WPRO slots for Kona 2014. We don’t have any hard announcements by WTC concerning 2015, neither regarding equality of slots nor a specific number of slots. There are a lot of other loose ends for Kona 2015 qualifying (apparently the number of races counting for the KPR score is also still open). We only have a few more days before the first Ironman with KPR points for Kona 2015 (Ironman Wisconsin on September 7th), and it would only be fair to all Pro athletes to know the rules for qualifying. I hope that WTC will soon announce more details and make things a bit more predictable!