Yesterday Ironman CEO Andrew Messick sent a letter to Pro Athletes addressing changes to be made in the 2015 season. There were five primary changes outlined.
There will be changes to prize money and KPR: Prize money and Kona qualifying points or (KPR) points have been re-allocated to fewer races, which Ironman believes will “create higher profile events that feature the best in the world.” Many of the longest iconic races in North America will no longer have prize purses, Kona points or be eligible for Kona validation. The nine Ironman races affected are Boulder, Louisville, Wisconsin, Maryland, Lake Tahoe, Florida, Muskoka, Los Cabos, and Lake Placid.
For the past number of years, volume racing has been the ticket to Kona for those pros in the upper-middle of the pack. In 2015, an athlete’s five highest scores will count with a maximum of three full distance races in that mix. The top five combination can include no more than three 70.3 events and three full Ironman events.
The second area addressed relates to female pros: The gender inequity in terms of number of male versus female pros who can qualify for Ironman or Ironman 70.3 World Championships has been one of the most contentious of issues in the last year. For 2015, Ironman has decided to keep the status quo which sees 50 men and only 35 women qualify. Messick addressed this by saying:
“Regarding slot parity, our discussions with the professional women encouraged us to regroup and conduct a more detailed and comprehensive review of the slot process, relative competitive dynamics by gender within the professional field, and the fundamental appropriateness of proportional representation. Our conclusion was that we believe that we currently have a fair and appropriate slot allocation between professional men and professional women.”
However, one area where Ironman has made a significant change with respect to female pros was to re-jig the start times at Kona. In 2015 the age group men start 25 minutes behind them and so avoid interfering with the pro female race dynamic. This will affect age groupers because the extra time will be deducted from the 17 hr cut off which will be shortened to 16:45.
Messick also asked pro athletes to be part of the development of the sport. He said:
“We expect that all world championship athletes will work with Ironman during the year and volunteer at least one day to assist us on an initiative to help grow our sport.”
Messick identified promotion and media support as another area in need of change. In recent events including the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, coverage left viewers wanting. Messick insists, “Having fewer races as part of the pro series will allow us to concentrate our promotional and media efforts and allow for more and better coverage…”