On December 20th, Ironman has announced a new system for Pros qualifying for Kona (Press Release on the Ironman website). Starting with qualifying for Kona 2019, the system will revert from the Kona Pro Ranking (KPR) back to a slot-based system. This post tries to estimate the resulting number of females and males that are likely to receive slots for Kona. It is the first one of a series that looks into the implications of the new system, more will be released over the next days.
Basic Slot Count
In the 2017 Kona qualifying season (i.e. races from September 2016 to August 2017) there have been 32 different Professional Ironman races, including Kona, five Regional Championships, 20 regular IMs with both male and female races and six single-gender IMs.
Let’s have a look at the base slots for the different race categories:
- Kona: Podium finishers (first, second and third) will get a slot for the next year (which still needs validation by finishing another Ironman race during the season)
-> 3 slots per gender
- Regional Championships: Each of the Regionals gets two male and two female base slots (plus two more “floating” slots, see next section). There were five Regionals in the 2017 season, that number decreases to four in the 2018 season with Brasil no longer a Regional Championship, but might increase again in 2019.
-> 2 slots per gender (5 times)
- Regular IMs: For each gender there were 23 regular IMs (P-2000 IMs in the KPR system).
-> 23 base slots per gender
Summing up, the total number of base slots per gender is 36.
There will also be Automatic Qualifier slots for Kona winners for five years and for the 70.3 Champion from the previous season (all requiring validation). The actual number of AQ slots depends on how many different athletes have been able to win Kona in the last five years and if the 70.3 Champion decides to race Kona the year after. A rough estimate is two more AQ slots per gender (in addition to the current Kona champion).
Floating Slots for Regionals
Looking at the 2017 Regional Championships, here is how their two floating slots per race would have been assigned:
- Ironman South Africa: 26 females, 37 males -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Texas: 21 females, 35 males -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Brasil: 18 females, 29 males -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Cairns: 13 females, 27 females -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Frankfurt: 18 females, 50 males -> 2 male slots
With the 2017 participation numbers, all floating slots from the Regional Championships would have been assigned to the male Pros, i.e. places 1 to 4 of the MPROs would have received a Kona slot while only the first two finishers of the females. It was closest in South Africa, just one more female racing would have created an even split of slots.
Remaining Floating Slots
In order to reach the intended number of 100 Pros racing in Kona, there are another 14 slots that will be assigned as floating slots to the other races. Assuming that there are always going to be an even number of slots for a race, there are likely seven Ironman races with additional floating slots. The number of male and female Pros racing there will determine the distribution of these slots between male and female Pros.
To get an indication of how the final split between male and female Pros is going to end up, here is the distribution if the floating slots would have been assigned to the highest paying races in the 2017 season. Here are these races (including the combined single-gender races), their split of female and male athletes in 2017 and how the floating slots would have been assigned:
- Ironman Wisconsin / Chattanooga: 12 female, 25 male -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Arizona: 25 female, 45 male -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Cozumel: 19 female, 34 male -> 2 male slots
- Ironman New Zealand: 17 female, 23 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot
- Ironman Boulder: 10 female, 15 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot
- Ironman France: 6 female, 18 male -> 2 male slots
- Ironman Lake Placid / Canada: 17 female, 29 male -> 1 female slot, 1 male slot
Under these assumptions, the participation in four races with floating slots would have led to two male slots, the remaining three would have had an even split between male and female slots. Overall, three of the 14 floating slots would be assigned to the females and eleven to the male Pros. (While you can debate this selection of races, they are probably even slightly optimistic for the females. Among the 23 regular IMs, only 6 or roughly a quarter of all races had a strong enough female participation to lead to an even split of slots.)
Summary of Likely Slots Distribution
Here’s a summary of the likely distribution of Pro slots:
- 36 base slots for each gender
- 2 additional Automatic Qualifier slots for each gender
- 10 male floating slots from the Regional Championships
- 3 female and 11 male floating slots from the regular Ironman races
This would mean a total of 41 female slots and 59 male slots. In Kona 2017, there were 40 females and 58 male Pros on the start list. The proportion of male and female Pros would be pretty much unchanged between the old KPR system and the new slots-based system.