With the KPR, every pro that wants to race Kona has to complete at least one Ironman in the “qualifying year” outside of Kona. Now that I have a good number of race results in my database, I can have a look at recent TOP3s in Kona that would not have been able to race under the new qualifying rules. (Even so, my data may not be 100% up to date or complete – please let me know any errors in my post.)
Here’s an overview:
- winners: Michellie Jones (2006), Chris McCormack (2007), Craig Alexander (2008 and 2009), Mirinda Carfrae (2010)
- 2nd places: Sam McGlone (2007), Yvonne van Vlerken (2008), Mirinda Carfrae (2009)
- 3rd places: Kate Major (2007), Virginia Berasategui (2009), Julie Dibens (2010)
This is one winner from each year and 11 out 30 possible (5 years * 3 spots * m/f) places! To me, this was a bit of a surprise, I thought that it was “just” Crowie who only raced Kona.
Where did they get their slots?
- The TOP10 in one year used to get an automatic spot for the following year.
- For some time, the 70.3 champions got an automatic qualifier for Kona.
- Even though the number was pretty small, some 70.3 races also had some pro slots.
Does this large number of athletes who didn’t race an IM during the year (or none at all) mean that WTC should change the qualifying rules? For now, I don’t really think so:
- With the exception of Macca, all 2010 TOP10 athletes qualified under the new rules. This shows that the new rules have been accepted, even if a bit grudgingly.
- Giving any number of TOPx athletes from Kona slots for the following year would be a bit unfair compared to those that have to race to qualify: They have a full year to focus on the next Kona race. While this may be a disadvantage, it usually allows them to get to Kona a bit fresher than those that have to race in the summer to get a slot.
- Especially on the women’s side, the 70.3 champions fared quite well in Kona (even if it meant that it was their first IM). However, the way the points system works now, all the 70.3 champion has to do is to race an Ironman – this should give them enough points to qualify. Also, I think it is fairly reasonable to expect pros not to race Kona as their first Ironman.
So even considering the large number of athletes with good Kona results that wouldn’t have been able to race under the new KPR rules, I don’t see any need for major changes based on the analysis of the data. From a WTC viewpoint, you could even say that the KPR succeeded in drawing athletes to race more often. However, as indicated earlier, I suggest to wait for the Kona race before a final verdict on the KPR.