For those who have attended any post-Ironman roll downs this year, it’s hardly been a secret that many Ironman events around the world have seen a distinct drop in demand for world championship slots for both Nice and Kona. In May, Ironman Lanzarote handed back a dozen of the 25 women’s slots on tap for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, while many of the slots for the men’s championship in Nice rolled well down through the finishers list. There’s been reports that at some Ironman events anyone who has wanted a slot for the race in Nice could get one, and a few weeks ago there were just 21 women’s finishers of Ironman Kazakhstan, where there were 25 qualifying slots. Ironman doesn’t provide any specifics on registration data (or hasn’t provided any after our requests, anyway), so it’s hard to get the data to back up these reports.
We’ve now learned that athletes who participated in events last fall are being approached by Ironman with an opportunity to compete on the Big Island this year.
“We are pleased to announce that we have extended the slot allocation process for IRONMAN Wisconsin and will now be offering additional female slots for the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship in Kaulia-Kona, Hawai’i on October 14, 2023,” the email says. “This email is to inform you that you have received one of these additional slots. You will have 48 hours to redeem your registration link below. If you do not accept the slot within 48 hours, it will roll down to the next eligible finisher within the age group.”
According to a Slowtwitch forum earlier this year, a similar email was being distributed to male finishers from fall Ironman events, too.
We’ve reached out to Ironman for more information on this “extended slot allocation” and will update this story if any is provided.
Last year Ironman found itself in a similar situation for the world championship event in St. George (see link above). With the goal of having 3,800 athletes at the start line at that event, Ironman invited All World Athletes to compete at the event.
According to the Ironman website, as of July 13 there were about 1,950 men registered for the race in Nice. As of June 23 there were about 1,100 women registered for Kona.
Thanks to the COVID pandemic, last year’s Ironman World Championship events in Kona saw the largest fields ever as qualified athletes from three years all packed onto the Queen K. The success of that event ensured that Ironman wanted to continue to have two distinct days of racing for both the men and the women, similar to what’s been happening at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship since the 2017 event in Chattanooga. Since the community on the Big Island was overwhelmed with the two days of racing in Kona, Ironman came up with the plan to have two events, with the men competing in Nice in September, and the women competing in Kona in October. In 2024 the venues will be reversed.
The additional race venue means there’s a lot more opportunity for athletes to qualify for the world championship, especially for women, who traditionally would have taken about 30 per cent of the Kona slots when it was a one-day event. (In 2019 there were 2,126 finishers, with 1,513 men and 613 women getting to the finish line on Ali’i Drive.)
The women’s only race in Kona this year certainly adds a lot more opportunity to qualify for the race. Of the 505 women who started at Ironman Lake Placid last weekend, 100 were able to qualify for Kona.
While it won’t be as dramatic, there is space for more men to compete at the world championship, too. For the men in Lake Placid, there were 65 qualifying slots:
Since the race in Nice wasn’t announced until January, any men who qualified for the Ironman World Championship last fall were given the opportunity to defer their entry to 2024 so they could race in Kona. Based on the numbers we’re seeing for Nice this year, it would appear that many took Ironman up on that option. That will likely make qualifying for next year’s race in Kona that much more competitive as fewer slots will be available.
The extended qualifying options have been met with some frustration from some competitors. While they would have jumped at a slot last year, an invitation in June or July for a race in October isn’t an option for many, who have either not been training for a full-distance event, or committed themselves to other events.
“Hardest race in the world for a triathlete to earn a spot in”
That’s the way we described trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in a story we posted in 2018 on how to qualify for Kona. So far in 2023, that doesn’t seem to be the case, for either Kona, or Nice.
With reports from Raymond Britt from RunTri.com