RJA couple of weeks or so back Ironman announced that they were making some adjustments to the points qualification system for the Ironman World Championships.  The changes or in some cases, non-changes, have been received with mixed reviews. Professional triathlete, Rachel Joyce weighs in on the subject.

In general I think that the changes are an improvement although I do share some of the concerns that have already been raised in the social media world. Here I have a look at what’s changed, what hasn’t and what this means in practise for the women pro triathletes out there trying to qualify for Kona.


Kona goes up to 8,000 points

Previously Kona was 6,000 points: the highest scoring Ironman of the year. The points have been upped again to 8,000.  The points system have always been weighted to preference those who perform well in Kona. Increasing the points for Kona now almost guarantees the top ten finishers their place at Kona the next year so long as they have validate with a half decent Ironman and thrown a 70.3 into their schedule.  This is more in line with the pre points qualification days where a top ten finish booked your ticket to Kona the next year.


I think this is a good move.  If someone performs well on the world stage, racing the best in the world it’s a good thing to have that person back in the World Champs the following year.  BUT.  And it’s a big BUT this makes Kona a bit of a “closed shop” for women.  I say women because the WTC has decided to keep the women’s field at Kona to 35 versus 50 for the pro men. If we assume that the top 10 in Kona will in all probability get there again the following year, that means there are only 25 other spots open for the following year whereas men still have another 40 spots up for grab.


I think this is reason enough to up the women’s field in Kona to 50.  Any woman not racing in Kona in 2013, whether that be because they are out with injury, because they are an up and coming athlete or because they have just moved up to long course, will face an uphill battle to get there in 2014. I want see the likes of Julie Dibens and Cat Morrison  back in Kona. I also want to see new names shine on the world stage.   I am pretty sure the sport wants to see this too. But, is it possible to see these athletes in Kona and for them to be fresh and ready to contend for the win?  If women are forced to race two high scoring Ironmans and several 70.3 in the course of the year is that a real prospect?


CAVE_STEFFENNo more 1,000 point Ironman races 

There will now be three tiers of Ironman race:2,000, 4,000 and 8,000 points.  On the surface this is good.  An Ironman is hard, it takes a lot out of you and a 1,000 is a meagre points reward for a tough days work.  The points have gone up, the prize money hasn’t.  As some have pointed out:  you can’t eat points.  A couple of years ago my heart won over economics and I race Ironman Lanzarote.  In the end (after tax deducted etc) I got less than $4,000 for the win.  My win there meant a lot but I decided that was the last Ironman I would do with the lowest prize money.  Financially it just does not make sense.  It would have been nice to see the prize money go up too.


I have a few questions about the change in points and not prize money:  Will athletes who can afford to race a lower paying Ironman pick up 2,000 points in a weaker field?  With the ever growing number of Ironman races on the circuit are we just going to see a further dilution of the fields?  Diluted races are not good for the professional sport.Tight, competitive racing is.  Is it time for the WTC to streamline the professional circuit so that only selected races each year have a professional race.  These races can rotate year on year but at least then we will see real races rather than individual time trials.


Change in weighting of points 

I was happy to see that the weighting of points for Ironman races change.  The adjusted points system looks to reward performance over racing a large number of Ironmans.  For instance, if I use Ironman Frankfurt as an example:  the woman finishing in 7th place scored 2080.  That is more points than a win in many Ironman races.  Is that right?  The current system should mean that a few top performances will secure Kona qualification over a larger number of mediocre performances. 


rinnyStill only 35 Kona spots for women 

I touched on disparity between the men and women’s field above.  Lots of arguments are made that 35 is proportional to the total number of registered women professionals.  I think this argument is flawed for a number of reasons:

  • There is no qualification standard for racing as a professional on the Ironman circuit.  This means there is a huge difference between the professionals finishing at the front and the back of the race in both fields.  Therefore, I don’t think it really makes much sense to rely on simple percentages of total registered professionals.  Look at the points collected by the number 50 man (3235) versus the number 50 woman (3060).  Not really that different.
  • Equality.  I think that says it all.  We count for half of the world’s population.  We should want to see triathlon be an equal sport in future generations.  What message are we sending out to kids taking up the sport with this disparity?
  • Why not? Having 15 more professional women on the start line effects no one.
  • Women’s racing has the depth to justify the top 50 women being there.  This year in Frankfurt the top 10 women were divided by 20 minutes.  The men? 19 minutes.  We have upped our game and arguments about weak fields and lack of depth are now outdated.


Points to debate for the future 

  • Should we see the number of qualifying Ironmans reduced from 5 to say, 3?
  • Should Iron distance specialists be able to count one of their Ironman performances towards their 70.3 qualification?


I know I haven’t covered everything here.  I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks so we can continue to evolve our sport…


Text by Rachel Joyce

Photography by Delly Carr and Witsup


About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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10 Responses

  1. Luke Gillmer

    Nice overview of the change.

    A change that is needed is that the winner Male and Female of any ironman should automatically get into Kona. And lets see equal numbers male and female on the start list.

  2. Laura Siddall
    Laura Siddall

    Great points by Rachel. Not being too up to speed with the whole KPR anyway, what Rachel is saying makes sense, but i’m not one of the Pros trying to get those points.

    I do whole heartedly agree with the equal sports. Kona should have 50 spots for men and 50 spots for women.

    I recently heard that at a NSW Cycling event, they recognised the top 5 men in each race but only the top 1 female. They also didn’t have enough medals/prizes for everyone and said, it’s ok we will post medals to the females afterwards. ???? Are we still in the dark ages? It was so sad to hear that the females were treated as inferior. Again regardless of participation numbers and % we should be striving for equal recognition.

    • Stef Hanson. Chief.

      That’s appalling! Post them to the females… Pfft!

      As a potential triathlete stepping up to pro in time, KPR will become an important part of your racing we’d assume – if world champs are a goal (70.3 or Ironman)… ?

  3. David

    My 2c on the situation….
    Actually seems odd that WTC allow excessive “credit” to be carried over from one Championship season to the next courtesy of World Champs. Look at any other professional sports…..NFL, Golf, NBA, MLB……None of those give credit at Championships/Masters for the next season, frankly doing that seems a bit ridiculous.
    The variety in prize $$$$ at WTC races will always influence the depth of the field attracted.
    WTC should have made EVERY race a 2000 point race and changed season from day after Kona to day of Kona.
    That way up and coming athletes get credit for doing say IM Lake Tahoe or Lanzarote 70.3 even if they don’t get the prize $$$$.

  4. Richie

    Don’t have to worry about points if you’re not a pro. You don’t get prize money as an AG (sounds like you don’t get any as a pro anyway). AG kona qualification has another issue but will discuss separately. Racing AG is much better off – get more corporate sponsorship/money/attention if you’re top in your AG than being an outsider (not top 10) in the pro field.


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