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Do Women have to race more often than Men in order to qualify for Kona?

As women will need more KPR points in order to qualify for Kona, the question has been asked if women have to race more often than men for a Kona slot. This post compares men’s and women’s number of Ironman races, KPR points and points per race.

Number of Ironman Races

Here’s a graph that shows the number of races for men and women:


The red line shows the data for women, the blue line the men’s data. On the x-axis, the graph shows the position in the KPR ranking, the y-axis the average number of IM-distance races that the first x number of athletes have races. (E.g. the data points at 15 show that the men and women between number 1 and 15 in the KPR rankings have raced a similar average number of races, about 2.6 races.)

At first the two graphs diverge a bit. This is caused by a few “outliers” of well-placed women with a large number of races:

  • Gina Crawford: 6 races
  • Meredith Kessler: 4 races

At about the July cutoff place for women (#28) the graphs are closer together, but women have raced slightly more often. The difference is about 0.2 races – pretty small, and probably caused again by a few outliers (Mirjam Weerd: 5 races, Mareen Hufe and Ashley Clifford 4 races).

After that, the graphs are very close together and the differences are only statistical blips. My interpretation of the data: There is no meaningful difference between the men’s and women’s number of races.

Number of KPR Points

The explanation of the different cutoff numbers for men and women is very simple: It is caused by the women’s cutoff occurring at #28, while the men’s cutoff occurs at #40 – obviously you need more points to place 28th than to place 40th.

But then the next question comes up: Is there a difference between the number of points required 28th (or 40th) between men and women? Here’s a graph that can help answer that question:


Gain, the graph shows the place in the KPR rankings on the x-axis. ON the y-axis, it shows the number of points required to rank that high.

There is a clear separation of the two graphs around the women’s July cutoff of #28, it’s almost 900 points. The graphs narrow again at the #40 spot and stay pretty close together until about #60.

My interpretation: Women placed around #28 have a larger number of points than their male counterparts.

Putting both observations together

From the two graphs shown, we have two observations for the KPR spots around #28:

  • Women and men race about the same number of races for their points.
  • Women have a larger number of points than men.

There is only one way I can see that these two observations can both be true: Women must be making more points per race. So here is a third graph:


The graph displays the average number of points per race on the y-axis. After the initial movements in the graph settle down, we can indeed see that women make more points per race: The difference around the #28 spot is about 150 points per race.

I’m assuming that this means that the women’s fields are not quite as deep as the men’s, so it is a bit easier to make more points for the women. However, the difference is quite small – 150 points is about the difference of 2 spots (5th place and 7th place, 6th to 8th etc) in a P-2000 race or 4 spots in a P-1000 race.

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