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Ironman overhauls professional Kona qualification process for 2019

Ironman announced a major shake-up to the Kona qualification process for professional athletes, this morning. After creating the Kona Points Ranking (KPR) system in 2010, they have decided to move back to a system of slot-based qualification for the 2019 season. The new system goes into effect when 2019 Kona qualification begins after the Ironman 70.3 World Championships on September 8.

Here are the highlights of the new system, as outlined in Ironman’s press release:

  • The change aligns with the global age-group system with qualifying slots being allocated to Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events on the global pro calendar for the respective world championship races.


  • The guaranteed base slot allocations will be equal for both male and female professional athletes, with additional slots being allocated and distributed to events based on the number of professional starters. The Regional Championship events will be assigned the greatest number of qualifying slots of any event on the pro circuit.  Each qualifying Ironman or Ironman 70.3 event will have at a minimum one men’s and one women’s professional slot. This means there’s an equal number of approximately 37 guaranteed spots for both male and female pros, but the remaining ~24 slots will be allocated based on proportion of pro male vs. female athletes in the field at certain races.


  • For the global 2019 Ironman professional calendar, the number of Ironman World Championship slots is expected to be approximately 100, similar to the current total allocation. Based upon the global 2019 Ironman 70.3 professional calendar, the current two-day format of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship could allow for up to 170 professional athletes split between the days.


  • The five-year World Champion exemption will remain in effect, with the addition of a one-year exemption for Ironman World Championship podium finishers and a reciprocal exemption invitation to the Ironman 70.3 World Champion. All exemptions remain subject to completion of a validation race and remain additional to the guaranteed allocations to qualifying events.“Finishing atop the podium at an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 event is a great accomplishment and the reward for that should be a place at the starting line at the World Championship events,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer for Ironman. “The return to the slot system celebrates our champions and Ironman host communities around the world and changes the focus squarely back to recognizing great performances on race day. If you win you are in, and athletes will no longer need to calculate how to plan their race schedule to qualify.”