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Evaluating the New Kona Pro Qualifying System

Now that Kona Pro Qualifying has come to a close for 2019, it’s time to evaluate how the new qualifying system has worked for its first full season. This post compares the old to the new system and looks at some of the implications, giving data and evaluations on a couple of different aspects. I close with a few ideas on how to improve the current system.

Comparing the Outcomes

In order to compare the old points-based “Kona Pro Ranking” to the new slot-based system, I have applied the KPR system to the results of the 2019 racing season and looked at the resulting Kona fields. This section looks at the major differences that these two systems would have produced.

Simulating the 2019 KPR

There are a couple of details that make the comparison a bit tricky. Converting the new system to the old system is relatively straight-forward for Ironman races – the three categories of the KPR (Kona as P-8000, Regionals as P-4000, and regular IMs as P-2000) can be easily identified in the 2019 season. However, the distinction in the new system between races with just the regular two slots and the races with extra unassigned slots gets lost, but of course might have played a role in athletes deciding which race to tackle. Another small problem: For 70.3s, there have been four categories in the old KPR (Worlds as P-3000, Regionals as P-1500, and regular 70.3s as P-750 or P-500). There is no distinction between P-750 and P-500 in the new system, so I have put all of them in the P-500 category. One might do something trickier to determine the equivalents of P-750s (maybe based on which race was a P-750 in the season before), but that is unlikely to make a big difference in the overall rankings.

The following tables show the top-ranked athletes based on this simulation.

Top of the Female KPR

Rank Name Nation Points Races
AQ Ryf, Daniela SUI 17000 3+1 (2000/3000)
AQ Charles-Barclay, Lucy GBR 14400 2+2 (4000/500)
AQ Crowley, Sarah AUS 13400 3+1 (3400/1275)
1 Haug, Anne GER 11310 2+2 (2000/400)
2 True, Sarah USA 8735 2+2 (1600/135)
AQ Carfrae, Mirinda AUS 7920 2+2 (1670/500)
3 Piampiano, Sarah USA 7715 3+1 (2000/625)
4 Sali, Kaisa FIN 7460 2+1
5 Naeth, Angela CAN 6705 3+1 (960/320)
AQ Moench, Skye USA 6380 2+2 (960/500)

Daniela’s total of 17.000 is quite unbelievable and will be very hard to beat. Her total is based on her win in Kona (8.000 points), a win at the North American Regionals in Texas (4.000 points), her win at the 70.3 Champs (3.000 points) and a win at IM Austria (a “paltry” 2.000 points). Wow!

Top of the Male KPR

Rank Name Nation Points Races
AQ Currie, Braden NZL 11965 3+1 (1280/1435)
AQ Weiss, Michael AUT 11280 3+1 (2890/1290)
AQ Lange, Patrick GER 10415 2+2 (515/400)
1 Aernouts, Bart BEL 9830 2+2 (855/500)
2 Russell, Matthew USA 8715 3+1 (1670/320)
3 O’Donnell, Timothy USA 8015 2+2 (1280/400)
4 Hanson, Matt USA 7890 3+1 (2000/400)
AQ Frodeno, Jan GER 7500 1+2 (4000/500)
5 McNamee, David GBR 7395 2+1
6 Van Berkel, Tim AUS 7315 2+2 (2240/400)

Athletes Qualifying Only Under the Slot System

Here’s a table that shows the women who snagged a 2019 slot but would have been outside the Top 35 ranks in the KPR and therefore wouldn’t have qualified for Kona:

Rank Name Nation Points Races
39 Philipp, Laura GER 3000 1+2 (2000/500)
40 Derron, Nina SUI 2940 2+2 (540/400)
42 Thoes, Svenja GER 2800 1+2 (2000/400)
43 Kessler, Meredith USA 2760 3+1 (540/400)
50 Spieldenner, Jennifer USA 2560 1+2 (2000/240)
65 Riveros, Barbara CHI 2100 1+1
67 Huse, Sue CAN 2045 1+1
66 Bleymehl, Daniela GER 2000 1+0
71 Bilham, Emma SUI 2000 1+0
90 Mack, Danielle USA 1355 1+1
113 Kunz, Martina SUI 990 1+2 (720/135)

As usual, the “rank” column only looks at athletes who are “competing” for points-slots, i.e. without automatic qualifiers or those who didn’t race any full-distance Ironman races. Here’s the corresponding table for men outside the Top 50:

Rank Name Nation Points Races
55 Buckingham, Kyle ZAF 2250 2+1
56 Peterson, Kennett USA 2240 1+2 (1600/320)
57 Kraemer, Lukas GER 2225 1+1
59 Tollakson, TJ USA 2180 1+2 (1280/400)
60 Clarke, Will GBR 2155 2+1
61 Viennot, Cyril FRA 2155 2+2 (235/240)
62 Duelsen, Marc GER 2065 2+1
65 Fontana, Daniel ITA 2000 1+0
65 Hogenhaug, Kristian DEN 2000 1+0
84 Schumacher, Stefan GER 1670 1+0
89 Alonso McKernan, Clemente ESP 1600 1+0
115 Silvestrin, Frank BRA 1280 1+0

As expected, athletes who wouldn’t have qualified in a points system are those with “one big result” (winning an IM, e.g. Sue Huse who won IM Taiwan, Jen Spieldenner who won Louisville, or Kristian Hogenhaug who won IM Hamburg) or those who received a slot that rolled down quite far (e.g Martina Kunz, 5th in Hamburg, or Stefan Schuhmacher, 6th in Mar del Plata). This does not imply that these athletes don’t deserve to be in Kona – after all the system is what it is, and they probably would have raced more under a different qualifying system.

Athletes Qualifying Only Under the KPR System

Of course, there are also athletes who won’t be able to race in Kona 2019 but would have had the chance if the KPR system had still been in place. The following tables do not include athletes who didn’t qualify after declining their slots (such as Teresa Adam or Heather Wurtele):

Rank Name Nation Points Races
5 Naeth, Angela CAN 6705 3+1 (960/320)
14 Oliveira, Pamella BRA 5285 1+2 (1600/1500)
27 Duke, Dimity-Lee AUS 3975 2+2 (1280/400)
28 Watkinson, Amelia NZL 3875 1+2 (2455/500)
30 Hansen, Jennie USA 3685 3+1 (720/30)
31 Lundstroem, Asa SWE 3615 3+1 (565/240)

The same table for the male Pros:

Rank Name Nation Points Races
17 Burton, Matt AUS 5015 3+1 (960/320)
25 Wild, Ruedi SUI 3890 2+2 (1600/170)
28 Chevrot, Denis FRA 3605 2+2 (720/500)
29 Long, Sam USA 3620 3+1 (340/400)
32 Harvey, Jarrod AUS 3270 2+0
36 Rodriguez Iglesias, Gustavo ESP 2915 3+1 (540/135)
37 Blanchart Tinto, Miquel ESP 2780 3+0 (540/0)
38 Wojt, Lukasz GER 2740 2+2 (960/320)
39 Kappler, Blake AUS 2695 2+2 (405/100)
46 Dirksmeier, Patrick GER 2455 2+1
47 Kramer, Christian GER 2425 3+1 (230/55)
49 Van Looy, Diego BEL 2400 3+0 (720/0)
50 Huerzeler, Samuel SUI 2390 3+0 (385/0)

These athletes fall into two different categories:

  • Lots of Kona or 70.3 Worlds points from late 2018
    Pamella Oliveira was fourth at 70.3 Worlds in Port Elizabeth, then followed that up with three 70.3 wins (including the South American Regional Championships in Buenos Aires) and a second place at IM Brasil – unfortunately behind Sarah Piampiano who took the single female slot.
  • Lots of good (but no great) results in 2019
    The “poster child” for this category is Matt Burton: A 3rd at Western Australia, a 4th at IM New Zealand and a 4th at IM Cairns were just outside the Kona slots – either by one or two spots. A last-minute effort at IM Sweden ended in a frustrating DNF and no Kona slot.

Athletes Impacted by the New System

Some athletes love to race a lot, regardless of “strategic choices” to qualify. For example, Matt Russell has done four long-distance races between April and July, and even though he secured a slot at IM Frankfurt, he followed that up with Challenge Roth (one week after Frankfurt) and a win at IM Lake Placid (just four weeks after Frankfurt).

But there were also athletes who had to adapt their race selection or race strategies in order to qualify. A few examples:

  • Sarah True probably raced a bit harder in Cairns and Frankfurt knowing she needed a first or second to qualify, compared to a “solid finish” which would have secured her slot in a points system.
  • Angela Naeth would have been safe for a Kona slot after her sixth place in Kona and a second place in Cozumel in November under the old KPR system. Instead, she was chasing a slot even while struggling with injuries, resulting in four unsuccessful attempts over the summer (three DNFs in Boulder, Canada and Tallinn, and a fourth place at IM Copenhagen).
  • Braden Currie missed his Kona slot by one spot at IM New Zealand and thus was forced to also race IM Cairns. As he was racing Challenge Roth, he probably would have preferred to skip Cairns. (He DNF’d in Roth.)

Data on 2019 Racing

Gender distribution of Pro Slots

When the new system was announced, the “unassigned slots” were one of the main aspects discussed and how that would impact the number of male and female Pros in Kona. Here’s a look at the resulting numbers:

Season Total Male Female Female Quota
2016 99 57 42 42,4%
2017 92 54 38 41,3%
2018 92 53 39 42,4%
2019 101 56 44 43,6%

(The total for 2019 is currently higher as it shows the number of qualified athletes. That number will likely be a bit smaller leading up to the race with athletes withdrawing, typically there are at least five athletes who don’t race even though having accepted a slot.)

These numbers show that there hasn’t been a major change in females Pros racing in Kona.

Why are the hopes of more even slots still unfulfilled? Ironman will probably point to the reduced number of females starts: In 2018 34,7% of the Pro starters were females, that number has been reduced to 31,4% in 2019. Also, it seems that the Regional Championships were quite attractive for the females in the past: In 2018 38,3% of the starting Pros at the Regionals were female. (My guess is that because more points were available, it was a chance for female Pros to qualify with just one result.) The share of females in the 2019 Regionals was 32,0%, almost exactly the overall average. Therefore, most of the unassigned slots went to the male Pros (16 out 20), but the share of unassigned slots that went to the men (80%) is significantly higher than their share of Pro athletes (68,6%).

DNF Rate

When the new system was announced, there was some speculation about athletes dropping out who were looking for a slot but found themselves too far back. Here’s just one example of many:


However, looking at the DNF rates for the last few seasons, the DNF rate has hardly moved at all:

Season Male Pros Female Pros
2017 26,1% 16,1%
2018 24,8% 16,9%
2019 26,3% 16,5%

It is safe to say that the impact of the qualifying system on the DNF quota has been negligible.

Quantity of Racing

The next table lists the average number of races that the Kona participants did in the season before Kona. In order to make the periods comparable, I’ve used the ten months after Kona to the end of August qualifying  (e.g. for the 2018 season it’s races between October 15th, 2017 to August 19th, 2018).

Season IMs 70.3s Challenge
2017 2,02 2,47 0,51
2018 2,16 2,37 0,64
2019 1,72 2,06 0,69

There has been a noticeable decline in the number of races a Kona athlete has done under the new system. (While it’s quite likely that the new system was the major contributor to this decline, it’s probably best to also check next season’s numbers before making a final call.) This is most pronounced for Ironman races – which seems quite logical since when an athlete has qualified after one race, there is no need for additional racing. It also seems that this “slack” did not go to 70.3 racing which has also declined. Racing in events by the Challenge Family has slightly picked up but is still quite minor compared to Ironman-branded races for those athletes who go to Kona.

Suggested Modifications for the Qualifying System

As far as I can see, there are a couple of criticisms leveled against the new system:

  1. Athletes who are “just outside” of a slot get nothing.
    There are two obvious examples for this: Matt Burton who has narrowly missed a Kona slot three times, and Sarah True who started at Zero even after a fourth place in Kona.
  2. The unassigned slots still heavily favor the men, and the last-minute assignment based on starters leads to surprises on race day.
  3. At some races, the slots rolled down quite far.

In order to address these points, here are a few elements for combining the old and the new system:

  • “Win and you’re in” and Automatic Qualifiers
    I think these parts of the system have been working well and shouldn’t be changed. I would also keep the two minimum slots for the Regional Championships. At 25 Pro IMs per season – including 5 Regionals – this results in 30 slots each for the men and women plus the AQs for previous Kona winners, the current Kona podium and 70.3 Champions.
  • Remaining Slots by a Points System
    Instead of the current “floating slots” that get awarded at different races, the remaining slots get decided by a points system similar to the old KPR. The number of slots could be adjusted based on how many total Pros there should be in Kona, with the current field size there would be about 24 additional slots.
  • Assign Points Slots at the Start of the Season
    Instead of deciding on a per-race basis, the points slots get allocated at the start of the season based on the number of starters in the previous season. Based on 24 points slots and the 2018 female quota of 34,7%, it would result in 8 female and 14 male “base” points slots.
  • No Rolldown of “winner’s slots” – these get added to the points slots
    If someone declines their slot or the winner doesn’t need a slot (e.g. when Daniela won IM Austria or when Jan and Sebi finished 1-2 in Frankfurt), the slot won’t roll down to the next finisher but instead get added to the points slots of their gender.
  • Simplified points system
    Every race beyond the auto qualifiers is a P-2000 (2nd in a normal IM = 3rd in a Regional = 2000 points etc.). One could also include 70.3 champs in this points system (as the winner also gets an AQ slot, 2nd place = 2000 points), but I’d leave out other 70.3s. As before, there should be a maximum of three Ironman races that can be included in the total.

Even though this system would require a bit more admin work than the current system, I think it addresses all of the weaknesses of the current system mentioned above. To me, it seems a worthwhile change – what are your thoughts?

Kona Qualifying – April 2019

Here’s a look at how the Kona 2019 Pro field is shaping up.

With the changed Pro Qualifying system a number of athletes have already secured their place on the Kona start line, and a few more with Automatic Qualifier slots still need to validate with an Ironman finish but can also be reasonably certain to race in Kona this October. All the rest have to finish at the front of one of the remaining qualifying races.


Here’s a quick description of the categories in the following graphs:

  • Qualified (the athletes in this category can be found on this page which is updated soon after each race)
    • Automatic Qualifiers
      Athletes with Automatic Qualifier slots (previous Kona winners, last year’s 70.3 winner, last year’s Kona podium finishers) that have already validated their slot with a finish in an Ironman.
    • Race Slots
      Athletes that have received a slot by winning a Pro Ironman race or finishing near the top.
  • Not (Yet) Qualified
    • Upcoming Race (in the following graphs: Texas) – with a likely number of slots as some are unassigned to the male or female Pros
      Some of the athletes looking to win a slot in an upcoming race. (Athletes with an unvalidated AQ are also listed, but they won’t block one of the race slots.)
    • Automatic Qualifiers
      Athletes with an “AQ” that still have to validate by finishing an Ironman.
    • Notables
      Some other high profile athletes that have not yet secured their Kona slots. I have added some of their race plans (as far as they are known) – please let me know if some plans are incomplete or when someone is missing.
    • Unlikely
      Athletes that are unlikely to go for a Kona slot.

Graphical Views


(Click on the images for a hi-res version!)

What to Look for in 2019 Long-distance Racing

Before the start of the 2019 long-distance racing season, here is a subjective list of trends and athletes to look for. I’m sure that there will be more athletes that are going to impact racing this year, so apologies in advance to anyone who isn’t mentioned!

Further Improvements

Last year’s post had a long list of athletes that were getting ready for their debut race on the IM distance. Some of them (e.g. Anne Haug, Sarah True) had great first seasons and huge results in Kona, some did well but maybe not quite as well as expected (e.g. Javier Gomez), some even struggled to qualify or even had to postpone their debut race and missed Kona qualifying (e.g. Emma Pallant or Laura Philipp).

SarahT Finish

The 2019 season is probably not going to see another influx of new names but rather a progression of athletes in their Ironman racing: Anne and Sarah have done well in Kona and will be looking to build on their Kona 2018 results. Emma will have to continue to work on her long-distance racing skills – it seems she still has to figure out proper race nutrition in order to do well in the last hour of racing. Laura has overcome her mid-season injuries and qualified for Kona 2019 with a new German fastest time in Barcelona.

In addition, there are athletes who made some progress in 2018 who will work hard for an even better 2019. Lucy Charles was already second in Kona twice, she’ll continue to work on closing the gap to Daniela and stay ahead of the rest of the field in Kona. Braden Currie and Joe Skipper have had great seasons and good Kona results, both are hungry to prove that last season’s results have just been an intermediate step. And Cam Wurf – while breaking bike course records whenever he raced – has also made solid progress on his run, closing the gap to the Kona podium from 21 minutes in 2017 to nine minutes in 2018.

Progress of the German Women

While the German men have been dominating in Kona for a number of years (five wins in the last five years), the German women haven’t been able to have similar successes. Last year I predicted two German women in the Kona Top 10, and with Anne Haug in third and Mareen Hufe in 13th that goal was almost reached.

Mareen Bike

Anne and Mareen continue to race this season (Anne just needs to validate her Kona slot with an IM finish and Mareen secured her Kona slot with a win in Malaysia), and there’s another increase in strong German women looking towards a good Kona result. Daniela Sämmler posted a German record in Roth 2018, then already qualified for Kona with a win at IM Italy in September.   (She’ll be racing as Daniela Bleymehl now after getting married shortly before Christmas.) Laura Philipp broke Daniela’s German record by winning IM Barcelona, and Svenja Thoes also won her IM debut in Cozumel. Anja Beranek (now racing again under her maiden name Anja Ippach) was fourth in Kona 2016, but she struggled in 2017 and 2018. After recovering from Mononucleosis, she is now being coached by Siri Lindley and is back to solid training for the 2019 season. Three recent moms are returning to IM racing, but Julia Gajer, Astrid Stienen and Kristin Liepold (née Möller) will need some more time to get in top shape. Nonetheless, things are looking quite for female IM-distance racing in Germany.

Coming Back From Injury

Last season saw two great “return from life-threatening injury” stories with Matt Russell and Tim Don, and it would be great to see these two celebrate even more great results in 2019.

Jan Kraichgau

This year we’re unlikely to see quite that dramatic stories, but there are a number of athletes that haven’t been able to show their full potential because they were struggling with injuries for parts of the 2018 season. Jan Frodeno had a fantastic season until September when he won every race he started, including IM Germany and 70.3 Worlds but then suffered from a hip stress fracture and wasn’t even able to start in Kona. He mentioned that another big win in Kona could have been his last race, so his 2019 is probably focused one more big bang in October. Terenzo Bozzone is another athlete who wasn’t able to race Kona after he was hit by a car and had to take some more time to properly recover from the injuries he sustained. By winning IM Western Australia he already punched his Kona ticket and indicated that his accident was hopefully just a short break of improving his Ironman racing skills. Ben Hoffman never really got his 2018 season properly going, a crash at Cape Epic kept him from racing well in South Africa, and before Kona he suffered from a stress fracture. Hopefully 2019 will see him return to the solid races he has had in the previous years, both in his qualifying races and in Kona. Boris Stein has finished in Kona Top 10 three times in a row between 2015 and 2017, but his season was disrupted just a few days before his target race IM France when he hit a cat in one of his last bike rides. He snagged a last-minute qualifying spot at IM Copenhagen, but didn’t feel good enough in his final Kona build and canceled his start. The final male athlete I want to highlight is Sebastian Kienle – after winning Challenge Roth which was the fastest 2018 time outside of Texas, an achilles niggle flared up in his Kona build, leading to a sub-standard bike and a DNF early on the run. He’s changed up a few things and I expect him to come back shooting for another Kona win this year.

There were also some athletes on the female side who didn’t have a consistent 2018 season as well. Mel Hauschildt recovered from her surgery to win IM Texas (her third Regional Championship on three different continents!) but then needed another surgery on her other leg and couldn’t race Kona. Annabel Luxford managed to qualify for Kona but also didn’t race – she seemed to struggle with chest infections and that had a major impact on her  Kona prep.

All of these stories are examples of the fine edge between “being fit and being f*cked” (as Sebi put it before Kona) and how one little thing – often without any “fault” of the athlete – can disrupt a whole season. Hopefully struggles in 2018 are going to be offset by a better 2019 season!

Who dominates in North America – USA or Canada?

The US has been dominating the early years of Ironman racing, but the most recent North American winners are from Canada: Lori Bowden and Peter Reid in 2003. That’s a long time ago, and it’s an interesting question where the next North American winners will be coming from.


On the men’s side, there have been podium results by US athletes Tim O’Donnell (third in 2015) and Ben Hoffman (second in 2014), but the closest to a Kona win was been Lionel Sanders who finished second in 2017. In 2018, the top North American finisher was again Tim O’Donnell but there is a strong contingent of Canadians we can expect to race well in Kona: Lionel will work hard to bounce back from his disappointing 2018 race, and Cody Beals has won both IMs he’s been racing so far. Brent McMahon is racing well in his qualifying Ironman races but hasn’t been quite figured out how to transfer that to Kona.

There is a similar rivalry on the female side: Heather Jackson has been the top North American finisher in Kona except this year, but with Sarah True another US woman finished fourth behind three Europeans. Linsey Corbin finished tenth, followed by Sarah Piampiano in eleventh place. Other strong American women include Meredith Kessler (still working on “getting Kona right”), Lesley Smith, Lisa Roberts, Jocelyn McCauley, Jodie Robertson and Lauren Brandon – all of these have the potential for an Ironman win during the season and a good Kona result. But Canada also had a Kona Top 10 finish this year (Angela Naeth in eighth place), and with Jen Annett, Kirsty Jahn, and Rachel McBride there are a few more promising athletes.

It looks to me that the US still has a few more athletes with Kona Top 10 potential, but things are pretty even when looking for the next North American Kona winner.

Photo Credits: All Photos © by Ingo Kutsche, used with permission.

Who to Look for in 2018 – How did they do?

Last year in March, I posted on the athletes I expected to have an impact on 2018 racing (see Who to Look for in 2018 Long-distance Racing):


Here’s a brief look back on how the 2018 season developed for the athletes I mentioned.

Athletes Stepping Up to Ironman Racing

  • Emma Pallant
    Emma struggled a bit moving up to the longer distances. She DNF’d in her first IM in South Africa, then finished third at IM Austria, securing her Kona slot (another DNF). She had more success over the 70.3 distance, winning three races and finishing ninth in the 70.3 World Champs.
  • Laura Philipp
    After three 70.3 wins at the start of her season, Laura had to cancel her IM debut that was planned for IM Germany when she had issues with her Achilles. She recovered in time for two more 70.3 wins and her first full Ironman which she smashed with a new German fastest time and a win at IM Barcelona.
  • Anne Haug
    Anne had a good build-up to IM Germany where she struggled with a flat early in the bike and pacing issues on the run. She still finished fourth, just enough to get a Kona slot. After finishing third at 70.3 Worlds she raced Kona without any expectations. The race turned out extremely well for her when she was able to ride with a big bike group and then to have the fastest run of the day which allowed her to finish in third place.
  • Javier Gomez
    Javier had a good first IM in Cairns when he finished sub-8 and in second after a close running duel with Braden Currie. He continued to race well on the 70.3 distance and was third at 70.3 Worlds after close racing with Jan Frodeno and Alistair Brownlee. His Kona race didn’t quite go according to plan when he lost some time with a flat in the last part of the bike and then didn’t quite have the run everyone (including himself) thought he had in him. After running just under three hours, he eventually finishing eleventh.
    For 2019/2020 he has announced a renewed focus on the shorter distances and the 2020 Olympic Games.

Returning Super Moms

  • Mirinda Carfrae
    Rinny had a solid first season back: She raced (and won) a few 70.3s, validated her Kona slot with a second place at IM Cairns, then finished fifth in Kona. She also secured her place on the Kona 2019 start line by finishing IM Mar del Plata in early December. I think you can expect her to contend for the Kona podium in October 2019.
  • Meredith Kessler
    Meredith had to race a lot for her Kona slot – she finished two full IMs and four 70.3s between April and August. She wasn’t able to “figure out Kona” (adding a DNF to her long list of disappointments on the Island) and also didn’t seem to be fresh for Arizona in November.
  • Liz Blatchford
    Liz had an up (wins at IM Philippines and IM Mont Tremblant) and down season (more injuries), so she decided to end her career after Kona. Racing without expectations, finishing twelfth is a satisfying good-bye race for her.
  • Jodie Cunnama
    Jodie had to focus this year on taking care of son Jack and supporting husband James, as a miscarriage made racing impossible. Hopefully 2019 is going to be a better year for her!
  • Caroline Steffen
    Caroline took some time coming back, but she ended the year with a bang by winning IM Western Australia and securing a Kona slot. I’m sure she has her eyes on delivering another great race in Kona 2019.

The First Sub-4 Bike Leg?

  • Andrew Starykowicz
    Andrew delivered the first sub-4 bike ride at IM Texas (3:54:59), at first not accepted by Ironman because of the slightly shortened course. A few days after the race Ironman accepted the Texas results as valid as a lot of other courses are also short. Still, there wasn’t much marshaling and a lot of Texas results are questionable because of drafting – something that is unlikely to have Andrew him as there isn’t much drafting at the front of the race and without motorbikes on the course.
  • Cameron Wurf
    Cam Wurf set bike course records on every course he raced this year (including Kona), but instead of cracking the four-hour mark was probably more focused on improving his run and placing well overall.

Coming Back from Injury

  • Mel Hauschildt
    Mel was able to win IM Texas with what is officially the IM-brand record, but the had more problems while racing 70.3 Philippines. It was determined that she needed another procedure to correct issues with her iliac artery, this time in her right leg. She had surgery in November 2018 and is hopefully recovering well to have a successful 2019 season.
  • Angela Naeth
    Angela returned to IM racing in June at IM Boulder, but she had contracted Lyme’s disease and struggled to run well. After racing more IMs in the Netherlands and Sweden, she received a Kona slot in late September when her protest led to a DQ of two athletes in the Netherlands. She had a great race in Kona, finishing in eighth place.
  • Tim Don
    After being forced to wear a halo after breaking his neck in Kona, Tim had a great Boston Marathon in April and also won his first 70.3 in Costa Rica. He was looking to add enough KPR points by racing IM Hamburg (9th) and IM Copenhagen (DNF) and was the final August qualifier when one slot rolled down. He tackled his Kona demons and was happy to race, finishing 36th.
  • Matt Russell
    Matt is clearly the “comeback of the year”. After hitting a truck in the Kona race and almost bleeding to death, he was able to race IM Texas in April, but he still wasn’t fully healed quite yet. He missed qualifying even after podium finishes at IM Canada and IM Mont Tremblant, but he received a well deserved wild card entry by Ironman. In Kona he had a fantastic day, making up time on the bike and also having a great run, finishing in sixth place.

Regional Trends

  • (Even) More Germans in Kona
    A number of top Germans struggled in Kona, Jan Frodeno wasn’t able to race at all and Sebastian Kienle DNF’d. Still, Patrick Lange was able to extend the “German Streak” of male winners since 2014. He was helped by Andi Dreitz who finished 13th, while Maurice Clavel also biked well but then fell back on the run to 19th place.
    Anne Haug – representing the German ladies – had a great result with her podium finish in Kona. Some other women had issues (see the section on athletes stepping up to the IM distance above), but there is a long list of promising athletes for 2019.
  • The Big American Hope to Win Kona
    The list of great American Ironwomen had an interesting addition with Sarah True who finished second in Frankfurt and fourth in Kona in her first season of long-distance racing. Heather Jackson struggled in Kona but then went on to set a new US fastest time when winning IM Arizona. Other American ladies did well but didn’t quite have the great results they were looking for.
    The “old US guard” on the men’s side is still going strong, this year Tim O’Donnell, Matt Russell and Andy Potts finished in the Top 10, while Ben Hoffman struggled with two injuries and wasn’t able to race Kona. Beyond these four, there still isn’t a proven Kona contender. For example, Matt Hanson continued his string of great racing in Texas and frustrating Kona results (33rd this year).
  • Scandinavian Ladies
    Once again, the top Scandinavian Kona finisher was Kaisa Sali, even though she was probably looking for more than seventh place. The other established Scandinavian ladies weren’t quite able to match her and finished well outside of the Top 10.
  • Rule Britannia
    This year’s Kona race had some more good results for British athletes, with Lucy Charles and David McNamee repeating their second and third places from last year and Joe Skipper and Corinne Abraham also moving up into the Top 10. With all the success on the shorter distances, it seems likely we will see more British athletes doing well in the coming years.
  • Aussie Aussie
    On the female side, the Aussies have had two Top 10 (Mirinda Carfrae fifth, Sarah Crowley sixth), while Cameron Wurf was the best Aussie male in ninth place. Another solid year for the Australians, but it doesn’t look as if they will be able to snag their next Kona win soon.
  • Asians Starting to Close the Gap
    Ironman continues to work on their expansion in Asia and China, but the number of changing venues indicates that this is not an easy goal to achieve. We also haven’t seen any notable results by Asian athletes last season – the fastest IM finish was an 8:55 at IM Malaysia by Japanese athlete Kaito Toharo. It seems to me that the growth of races and athletes will feed off each other, and both will need a bit more time.

Deep Dive Into 2018 Triathlon Money List

During the 2018 season, I’ve continued to process 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 couple of independent races. With this data, I’ve helped Challenge produce their regular Money List. Challenge updates the current Top 50 athletes on their website on a regular basis and will likely to continue to do so for the 2019 season. This post has a closer look at the different segments and some overall trends for the 2018 season.


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
# Races
# Athletes
Ironman WTC Ironman-branded races $2.622.750 -2,0% 35 (33) 295 (284)
70.3 WTC 70.3-branded races $2.245.000 -5,0% 71 (73) 385 (397)
Challenge Challenge-branded full and half-distance
races (incl. Bonus Pool)
$1.116.042 3,0% 29 (34) 196 (240)
ITU ITU WTS races (incl. Bonus Pool) $2.185.000 -6,4% 9 (10) 102 (125)
Other Wildflower, Escape From Alcatraz, ITU Long Distance Worlds, Alpe D’Huez L,
Embrun, Gerardmer XL, SuperLeague Jersey, Malta and Mallorca,
XTerra World Championships, Noosa Triathlon, Laguna Phuket Triathlon
$1.225.802 n/a 12 (9) 183 (117)
Total $9.212.696 n/a 156 (159) 764 (784)

A couple of observations:

  • For Ironman and 70.3s we saw another decline of the prize money in 2018. The total number of WTC Pro races hasn’t changed but the purse for a lot of races has decreased in this year. The total prize money WTC has awarded in 2018 has declined by 3.4%, following a decrease of 5.7% in 2017. The WTC prize money has shrunk by almost $500.000 in the last two years!
  • Challenge has continued to expand their prize purse. The fewer number of Pro races has resulted in fewer athletes earning money but that was more than compensated by the increased purse in Roth and the new race in Daytona.
  • It looks as if the ITU has reduced their prize money as they have one less paying race as part of their WTS series, but that is almost completely offset by one more  Mixed Team Relay that is not included in the Prize Money List.
  • Since the races that I include in the “Other” category are changing from year to year, you can’t really compare the numbers for this category and the total numbers from year to year.

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 Challenge Roth ($200.000) and those that placed well in a number of ITU WTS races and consequently also in the ITU Bonus Pool ($855.000).

This season’s top money earner is Daniela Ryf (who once again won both the Ironman and 70.3 Championships), even though she earned slightly less money than last year. (This is an indication of her lighter racing schedule this year.) She is followed by three ITU athletes – the WTS series winners Mario Mola and Vicky Holland and second place Katie Zaferes who also earned a lot of money by racing and winning SuperLeague.

The top earners have made less money in 2018 (last year Flora Duffy made $295.000), but the amount to make it into the Top20 is almost unchanged. Last year Yvonne Van Vlerken was 20th with $73.388, this year’s 20th Kirsten Kasper earned just $138 less.

Dani Kona

Photo: By the time she started the marathon, Dani was in control of the Kona race that helped her secure the top spot in the overall money list. Credit: Ingo Kutsche

# Name Nation Sex Total Ironman 70.3 Challenge WTS Other
1 Daniela Ryf SUI F $201.000 $150.000 $51.000
2 Mario Mola ESP M $199.500 $197.500 $2.000
3 Katie Zaferes USA F $177.400 $117.400 $60.000
4 Vicky Holland GBR F $166.100 $163.100 $3.000
5 Lucy Charles GBR F $165.000 $90.000 $20.000 $55.000
6 Vincent Luis FRA M $159.300 $109.300 $50.000
7 Patrick Lange GER M $134.485 $128.000 $4.750 $1.735
8 Sebastian Kienle GER M $103.014 $10.000 $93.014
9 Richard Murray ZAF M $99.850 $70.850 $29.000
10 Anne Haug GER F $92.500 $46.500 $31.000 $15.000
11 Henri Schoeman ZAF M $91.400 $46.400 $45.000
12 Jan Frodeno GER M $90.000 $30.000 $60.000
13 Michael Weiss AUT M $89.000 $53.000 $36.000
14 Kristian Blummenfelt NOR M $87.150 $14.000 $63.150 $10.000
15 Bart Aernouts BEL M $85.175 $75.000 $6.250 $1.425 $2.500
16 Lionel Sanders CAN M $81.000 $6.000 $45.000 $30.000
17 Jake Birtwhistle AUS M $80.400 $80.400
18 Georgia Taylor-Brown GBR F $78.800 $72.800 $6.000
19 Ashleigh Gentle AUS F $73.461 $57.350 $16.111
20 Kirsten Kasper USA F $73.250 $50.250 $23.000

WTC Races

The first “subcategory” 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 – as last year the two top spots are occupied by the Kona winners Daniela Ryf and Patrick Lange.

Dani 703WC

Photo: Daniela leading 70.3 Worlds in front of Lucy Charles, Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images for IRONMAN

# Name Nation Sex WTC Money Ironman 70.3 Total
1 Daniela Ryf SUI F $201.000 $150.000 $51.000 $201.000
2 Patrick Lange GER M $132.750 $128.000 $4.750 $134.485
3 Lucy Charles GBR F $110.000 $90.000 $20.000 $165.000
4 Jan Frodeno GER M $90.000 $30.000 $60.000 $90.000
5 Michael Weiss AUT M $89.000 $53.000 $36.000 $89.000
6 Bart Aernouts BEL M $81.250 $75.000 $6.250 $85.175
7 Anne Haug GER F $77.500 $46.500 $31.000 $92.500
8 Sarah Crowley AUS F $64.000 $59.000 $5.000 $64.000
9 Mirinda Carfrae AUS F $61.000 $36.000 $25.000 $66.000
10 Braden Currie NZL M $59.000 $49.000 $10.000 $61.015
11 Melissa Hauschildt AUS F $54.500 $30.000 $24.500 $54.500
12 Matt Hanson USA M $52.250 $40.000 $12.250 $52.250
13 Sarah True USA F $51.750 $37.500 $14.250 $51.750
14 Lionel Sanders CAN M $51.000 $6.000 $45.000 $81.000
15 Terenzo Bozzone NZL M $50.000 $30.000 $20.000 $50.000
16 David McNamee GBR M $47.750 $40.000 $7.750 $47.750
17 Rodolphe Von Berg USA M $44.000 $44.000 $49.000
17 Timothy O’Donnell USA M $44.000 $29.000 $15.000 $46.400
19 Heather Jackson USA F $43.500 $30.000 $13.500 $48.500
20 Cody Beals CAN M $41.750 $27.000 $14.750 $41.750

Ironman (outside of Kona)

When looking at a list just for Ironman races, it’s interesting to exclude Kona (as including Kona skews 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 (winner in Mar del Plata and Hamburg, third in Frankfurt) and the other athletes who won a Regional Championship in 2018.


Photo: Sarah Crowley winning IM Hamburg, Credit: TriRating

# Name Nation Sex IM Money Total Money
1 Crowley, Sarah AUS F $43.000 $64.000
1 Weiss, Michael AUT M $43.000 $89.000
3 Hanson, Matt USA M $40.000 $52.250
4 Adam, Teresa NZL F $36.000 $36.000
5 Buckingham, Kyle ZAF M $33.500 $34.750
6 Abraham, Corinne GBR F $30.000 $45.338
6 Bozzone, Terenzo NZL M $30.000 $50.000
6 Charles, Lucy GBR F $30.000 $165.000
6 Currie, Braden NZL M $30.000 $61.015
6 Frodeno, Jan GER M $30.000 $90.000
6 Hauschildt, Melissa AUS F $30.000 $54.500
6 Jackson, Heather USA F $30.000 $48.500
6 Ryf, Daniela SUI F $30.000 $201.000
14 Cheetham, Susie GBR F $27.500 $31.000
15 Beals, Cody CAN M $27.000 $41.750
16 Corbin, Linsey USA F $23.000 $40.000
17 Skipper, Joe GBR M $21.500 $43.925
18 Gossage, Lucy GBR F $21.000 $32.088
19 Amberger, Josh AUS M $20.000 $25.750
19 Siddall, Laura GBR F $20.000 $67.616
19 Svensson, Jesper SWE M $20.000 $21.425

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 2018 season. The list is topped by Lionel Sanders (five 70.3 wins, only beaten by Jan Frodeno at 70.3 Oceanside), Rodolphe Van Berg and Ellie Salthouse (both had five 70.3 podiums including three wins).

Lionel Indian Wells

Photo: Lionel Sanders on the run at his win at 70.3 Indian Wells. Credit: TalbotCox

# Name Nation Sex 70.3 Money Total Money
1 Sanders, Lionel CAN M $45.000 $81.000
2 Von Berg, Rodolphe USA M $39.500 $49.000
3 Salthouse, Ellie AUS F $34.750 $41.250
4 Appleton, Sam AUS M $33.250 $39.750
5 Weiss, Michael AUT M $31.000 $89.000
6 Kahlefeldt, Radka CZE F $30.000 $58.917
7 Oliveira, Pamella BRA F $29.500 $39.500
8 Laundry, Jackson CAN M $28.750 $28.750
9 Seymour, Jeanni ZAF F $28.500 $34.500
10 Kessler, Meredith USA F $26.000 $37.000
11 Findlay, Paula CAN F $25.500 $28.000
11 Starykowicz, Andrew USA M $25.500 $30.000
13 Carfrae, Mirinda AUS F $25.000 $66.000
14 Mendez Cruz, Mauricio MEX M $24.750 $26.250
15 Hauschildt, Melissa AUS F $24.500 $54.500
16 Reed, Tim AUS M $22.000 $24.000
17 Lawrence, Holly GBR F $21.250 $21.250
18 Philipp, Laura GER F $21.000 $29.000
19 Wurtele, Heather CAN F $20.250 $30.588
20 Bozzone, Terenzo NZL M $20.000 $50.000


The Challenge money list is dominated by athletes who focused their summer racing on the Challenge races and placing well in the Challenge Bonus Pool ($ 165.000 total). Sebastian Kienle took the win at Challenge Roth and three half-distance races, Pablo Dapena either won or placed second in all his eight Challenge races this year. Yvonne Van Vlerken won the female Bonus Pool by winning Challenge Almere and three half-distance races.


Photo: Sebastian Kienle on the bike leg of Challenge Roth, Credit: James Mitchell

# Name Nation Sex Challenge Money Total Money
1 Kienle, Sebastian GER M $93.014 $103.014
2 Van Vlerken, Yvonne NED F $60.505 $71.255
3 Charles, Lucy GBR F $55.000 $165.000
4 Dapena Gonzalez, Pablo ESP M $52.144 $62.144
5 Siddall, Laura GBR F $47.616 $67.616
6 Saemmler, Daniela GER F $44.338 $59.588
7 Heemeryck, Pieter BEL M $37.134 $46.634
8 Dreitz, Andreas GER M $30.838 $33.338
9 Sanders, Lionel CAN M $30.000 $81.000
10 Verstuyft, Katrien BEL F $29.307 $31.307
11 Kovacic, Jaroslav SLO M $28.832 $47.424
12 Roberts, Lisa USA F $22.254 $36.748
13 Sali, Kaisa FIN F $20.000 $52.000
14 Wurf, Cameron AUS M $17.986 $48.486
15 Thomas, Jesse USA M $17.707 $22.957
16 Kahlefeldt, Radka CZE F $17.213 $58.917
17 Haug, Anne GER F $15.000 $92.500
18 Santimaria, Margie ITA F $14.358 $14.358
19 McNeice, Dylan NZL M $11.119 $11.119
20 Lewis, Sarah GBR F $10.176 $21.426


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 Mario Mola and Vicky Holland. All of these athletes focused on shorter distances, earning all additional money on other short course racing such as SuperLeague. (The exceptions are Kristian Blummenfelt and Casper Stornes who finished first and third at 70.3 Bahrain in December.)


Foto Credit: © ITU Media, Wagner Araujo

# Name Nation Sex ITU Money Share of Total Total Money
1 Mola, Mario ESP M $197.500 99% $199.500
2 Holland, Vicky GBR F $163.100 98% $166.100
3 Zaferes, Katie USA F $117.400 66% $177.400
4 Luis, Vincent FRA M $109.300 69% $159.300
5 Birtwhistle, Jake AUS M $80.400 100% $80.400
6 Taylor-Brown, Georgia GBR F $72.800 92% $78.800
7 Murray, Richard ZAF M $70.850 71% $99.850
8 Blummenfelt, Kristian NOR M $63.150 72% $87.150
9 Gentle, Ashleigh AUS F $57.350 78% $73.461
10 Kasper, Kirsten USA F $50.250 69% $73.250
11 Learmonth, Jessica GBR F $47.850 100% $47.850
12 Duffy, Flora BER F $47.800 100% $47.800
13 Schoeman, Henri ZAF M $46.400 51% $91.400
14 Alarza, Fernando ESP M $40.550 93% $43.550
15 Klamer, Rachel NED F $40.000 64% $62.200
16 Lindemann, Laura GER F $37.600 100% $37.600
17 Stimpson, Jodie GBR F $34.800 77% $45.100
18 Spivey, Taylor USA F $31.450 60% $52.450
19 Le Corre, Pierre FRA M $30.750 100% $30.750
20 Stornes, Casper NOR M $29.050 87% $33.550

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