Chrissie Wellington has posted a long and as usual thoughtful blog post on “Thoughts, comments and suggestions on the KPR”. One of her points is as follows:
[It] seems that, because the women are competing for 30 total slots, they are having to race more, than the men who are competing for 50. Those at the cusp of the men’s cut off have done far less IM racing than their women counter parts. In short, some data suggests that the women are racing more to accrue sufficient points to get to Kona.
I thought that with my database of results, I should be in a pretty good position to have a closer look at this question.
First, lets have a look at the number of races that the Kona qualifiers have raced:
This graph shows the relative frequency of the number of races that female (red) and male (blue) athletes have raced. The shape of the graphs are very similar, and the average number is also pretty close (2.66 for the male, 2.82 for the female. To me, there is no significant difference between the genders.
There are no changes when we limit the number of males to 35 (as with women), either the top 35 or the low 35 qualifiers.
Athletes close to the cutoff
But Chrissie didn’t seem to look at all athletes. So I looked some more and limited the athletes to the 10 above and below the cutoff. With only 20 items in each dataset, the graph looks a bit wonky, but the base shape is still pretty similar:
Here, the male average is 2.25, and the female at 2.85 races – the difference between the genders is a bit larger than for all qualifiers.
So, did females race more often?
Even though Chrissie is a lot closer to the female athletes than I will ever be, her intuition of females racing more often is not supported by my data analysis:
- Female athletes have a similar average number of races, regardless of weather they qualifies or were close to the cutoff.
- The larger difference in the averages of athletes close to the cutoff seems to be caused more by the male athletes racing less than the females being “pushed” into racing more often. (Maybe some of those male athletes weren’t really interested in qualifying for Kona and didn’t chase points.)
- Also, the data gets a bit skewed by prolific female racers close to the cutoff (Miranda Alldritt with 6 races, Hillary Biscay with 5 races) and Mary Beth Ellis having to win three IMs within eight weeks in order qualify.
Then again, I may be missing something, so please leave a comment or send me an email.
Another idea: Change the points scheme for the females
There is however, one thing worth discussing a bit further: Because the size of the female fields are usually a lot smaller (average pro fields are 10 for the females and 18 for males), it is much easier for the females to score quite a lot of points even when they are far behind from the top racers. (I.e. it is much easier for a female to finish in the top 10 than for a male.) The way I see this, it results in the women racking up more points than their male counterparts (case in point: Male cutoff at around 3.000 points, female cutoff at 4.600; male counterpart to the last female qualifier “only” needs 4.200 points).
Chrissie discusses some changes to the points scheme in her blog post as well (although I’m not sure her thoughts were limited to the females). Maybe WTC should have a closer look into this?