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Deep Dive Into the 2020 Triathlon Money List

2020 has been a different year in a lot of regards, and of course there has been a huge impact on triathlon racing in general and also for Professional racing. This post has a look at the “raw numbers” on the Prize Money paid in 2020, but with the lower number of races this season a discussion about the limitations of these numbers (and what is not included) is even more important than for other years. I will close with a discussion of some trends that we have seen this year (beyond the simple observation of “lower numbers”) and what we might see in future seasons when racing is “back to normal”.

If you want to check out the 2019 lists, you can find them in my post “Deep Dive Into 2019 Triathlon Money List“.

Money List – Overview

First, here is an overview of the races that are included in the money lists and a comparison to the 2018 season. The total is shown in US$, for races that paid their prize purse in a different currency the amounts have been converted into US$. For some comments on the race types, see the “Limitations” section below.

Type Description Total Money Change to
# Races
# Athletes
Ironman (1) WTC Ironman-branded races $    200.000 -92% 3 (32) 49 (277)
70.3 WTC 70.3-branded races $    233.900 -89% 9 (71) 130 (400)
PTO (2) PTO-supported races (incl. Bonus Pool) $ 3.846.316 new Category 14 + Bonus 296
Challenge (2) Challenge-branded full and half-distance
$      16.614 -98% 1 (26+Bonus) 12 (208)
ITU (3) ITU World Triathlon Series (incl. Bonus Pool) $    250.000 – 89% 1+Bonus (8+Bonus) 101 (115)
SuperLeague (4) SuperLeague Professional Events $      50.000 -95% 1 (4+Bonus) 20 (58)
Other (5) Port of Tauranga, Hell of the West $      15.822 n/a 2 (9) 16 (183)
Total $ 4.612.652 -50% 31 (152)  457 (767)


Of course, prize money is only one part of how triathletes can make money in their sport. Especially the top athletes make a lot of money with sponsor payments and appearance money, but most of the sums involved in these areas are confidential. Sometimes, there is talk in the press (and sometimes even some form of acknowledgment), and here are some additional components that have been paid in 2020 but are not included in the table above. (If you’re interested in these aspects, Jordan Blanco has written an excellent post on about “The Economics of Professional Triathlon“.)

  1. Virtual Racing by Ironman
    When Ironman was forced to cancel (aka “reschedule”) most of their 2020 races, they started their new “Virtual Racing” series. They even had some Pros who appeared in the race and who were paid an “appearance fee”. No official numbers have been released, my best guess is that the total sum paid out to Pros is somewhere around $ 100.000 in total.
  2. Challenge Davos
    Challenge Davos had to be stopped during or just after the swim when a thunderstorm moved in that made racing dangerous. However, the intended prize money (€ 19.000 by Challenge and € 21.000 by the PTO) was paid out to all Pro categories competitors.
  3. ITU World Cups
    As in other seasons, I’m only counting the top-tier “World Triathlon Series” races and the money paid out there in the ITU category. However, there are also several second-tier World Cup races where prize money was paid. As there was only one WTS event this year, a lot of the top athletes competed in the World Cups and made some additional money there.
  4. SuperLeague: Rotterdam “Arena Games”
    SuperLeague was also forced to cancel their racing plans. They were able to put together an “Arena Games” event for ten men and ten women, swimming in a pool, riding on smart trainers and running on treadmills. I haven’t been able to find any official prize money breakdown, the 2020 numbers are estimates, probably erring towards the high side.
  5. Zwift Racing
    There have also been races on Zwift geared towards Professional triathletes, again without official information about the total money or breakdown.

Individual Athletes

The following table lists the top 2020 money earners.

# Name Gender Nation TotalMoney WTCMoney PTOMoney ITUMoney OtherMoney
1 Anne Haug F GER $142.503 $142.503
2 Paula Findlay F CAN $115.000 $115.000
3 Gustav Iden M NOR $105.938 $103.338 $2.600
4 Lionel Sanders M CAN $105.000 $105.000
5 Matt Hanson M USA $101.300 $15.250 $86.050
6 Jan Frodeno M GER $100.000 $100.000
7 Daniela Ryf F SUI $100.000 $100.000
8 Holly Lawrence F GBR $98.500 $3.500 $95.000
9 Alistair Brownlee M GBR $96.300 $93.000 $3.300
10 Lucy Charles-Barclay F GBR $90.000 $90.000
11 Sarah Crowley F AUS $88.750 $6.250 $82.500
12 Rudy Von Berg M USA $86.003 $3.500 $82.503
13 Laura Philipp F GER $85.000 $85.000
14 Sebastian Kienle M GER $82.250 $2.250 $80.000
15 Teresa Adam F NZL $73.030 $12.000 $61.030
16 Joe Skipper M GBR $72.500 $12.000 $60.500
17 Skye Moench F USA $65.750 $9.000 $56.750
18 George Goodwin M GBR $62.500 $62.500
19 Ben Hoffman M USA $62.500 $62.500
20 Javier Gomez M ESP $53.503 $52.503 $1.000
21 Carrie Lester F AUS $52.500 $52.500
22 Amelia Watkinson F NZL $51.553 $9.000 $42.553
23 Braden Currie M NZL $48.353 $4.000 $41.030 $3.323
24 Cameron Wurf M AUS $45.000 $45.000
25 Heather Jackson F USA $44.000 $44.000

If you’re only looking at prize money provided by Ironman, the top earners were Katrina Matthews ($18.000) and Matt Hanson ($15.250).

Additional Observations and Trends

Of course, the big changer for the 2020 season has been Covid and the resulting race cancellations. However, there are a few additional trends that are likely going to continue to impact Pro racing even after racing has returned to a more normal level:

  1. With the PTO, a new player has entered the triathlon scene. They have already been the main money provider in the 2020 season, and they have big plans for 2021 as well. With another big-purse event (the Collins Cup with $2 million for the athletes who make the teams) they are likely going to extend their #1 position.
  2. Prize Money provided by WTC has declined from year to year even before Covid. Their Pro racing calendar until early June 2021 has a total of $850.000 – the corresponding number for 2019 was almost $1,5 million. It seems very likely that the decline is going to continue further.
  3. The 2020 dip in Professional racing is not evenly distributed, for example Asia and South America haven’t seen any Pro races in 2020. When Ironman was sold in early 2020 they have stated that they want to continue to offer races in China, but currently there are no Pro races planned and all Chinese races are planned for “TBD”. Hopefully, there will be a good number of races across the globe in 2021.

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