Beginner’s Guide to Pro Qualification for Kona – Part 1

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Kelly Burns Gallagher in Ironman | Kona | TriEqual

In a recent Facebook exchange the following comments were made:

What ever happened to every winner of an ironman can race Kona, why doesn’t that happen anymore. Angela Duncan, Dede Griesbauer, etc.. they should all have an automatic slot into the world championships don’t you think?

I thought winners were allowed a spot.

That makes absolutely no sense. If someone wins a race they belong in Kona, no matter what their points are. Isn’t that how the age group slot allocation works? Basically if you win your age group you go to Kona, if a pro wins a race they should go to Kona.

Over the last few years, the system that professional triathletes use to qualify for Kona has become increasingly complicated (the full qualification standards for Kona, including a dozen different definitions of various terms, can be found here.)  Part 1 of this blog post will lay out the qualification system.  In Part 2 I’ll lay out some examples of how Pros were able to and others failed to qualify for Kona.

The Basics

  • Professional triathletes qualify for Kona based on their placement in the Kona Points Ranking (“KPR”).  The current men’s KPR can be found here.  The current women’s KPR can be found here.
  • The Kona qualifying season runs from September 1 through August 31.
  • Pro triathletes are awarded KPR Points based on their placements in specific 70.3 and 140.6 races.  Starting in 2014, not all races have KPR points.  For example, in the United States, KPR Points are available at Texas, Coeur D’Alene, Chattanooga and Arizona.  There are NO KPR points (or pro prize money) available at Lake Placid, Boulder, Florida, Louisville, Maryland and Wisconsin.
  • Races have different numbers of KPR Points base on the “P-Value” of the race.  Kona is a P-8000 race (meaning the person who comes in first gets 8000 points).  Regional Championships such as Melbourne, South Africa, Texas, Brazil and Frankfurt are P-4000 races.  All other 140.6 races with KPR points are P-2000 races.
  • How many points a pro earns is based on the “P-Value” of the race and their finishing position.  Below is a chart showing the allocation of points:
KPR Points Values

KPR Points Values

  •  An athlete placing 5th at Kona would receive 5250 KPR Points; 5th at Texas would receive 2090 KPR Points; 5th at Arizona would receive 720 KPR Points.  Interestingly 5th at a P-8000 race receives 65.6% of the winner’s points, at a P-4000 race that percentage is 61.4% and at a P-2000 is 36%.  The rewards for racing higher P-Value races are much higher than for racing lower P-Value races.
  • The athletes’ 5 highest scores count towards their total number of KPR points.
  • As part of the 5 highest scores, athletes may use no more than 3 scores from 70.3 races and no more than 3 scores from 140.6 races.
  • To qualify for Kona, one of the score MUST be from a 140.6 race.

Cut-offs

  • There are two cut offs for KPR rankings — July 31 and August 31.
  • On July 31 Ironman offers Kona slots to the top 28 female pros and the top 40 male pros.  If a pro declines the slot it rolls down to the next, highest ranking athletes of the same gender.
  • Individuals who take a slot or roll down at the July 31 cutoff are known as “July Qualifiers.”
  • On August 31 Ironman offers the highest-ranking 10 male pros and seven female pros who were not July Qualifiers Kona slots.
  • As with July qualifiers, if a pro declines the slot it rolls down to the next, highest ranking athletes of the same gender.
  • Based on these numbers 35 female pros and 50 male pros are offered Kona slots.

The Exceptions

  •  Kona champions receive a 5 year exemption from KPR requirements.  While Kona champions do not need to hunt for points, they do need to “validate” their exemptions by “by racing competitively (as determined by IRONMAN in IRONMAN’s sole discretion) and finishing at least one (1) Ironman®-Branded Kona-Qualifying Race.”  The “racing competitively” requirement was added for 2015.  There is no definition of what “racing competitively” means.
  • Winners of the regional championships — Melbourne, South Africa, Texas, Brazil and Frankfurt — automatically qualify for Kona.
  • Pro Athletes using 5 Year Exemption or the Regional Champion Exemption are not considered in the selection of July Qualifiers and August Qualifiers (if Mirinda Carfrae uses the Five Year Exemption and is ranked in the top 35 women, the 36th ranked woman will also be qualified to compete in the 2015 Kona Race — same goes for the men).

Practically, What Does This Mean?

In 2014 for a female pro to qualify for Kona she needed at least 4915 KPR points and an average of 4.53 races (remember the winner of a P-2000 race only receives 2000 KPR points, if you’re a female winning two P-2000 races won’t get you to Kona).  For a male pro to qualify he needed at least 3500 KPR points and an average of 4.47 races.  However, when you look at KPR rankings 39-53 for both men and women something interesting happens.  For men, average races per athlete is 4.20, for women, average races per athlete is 4.67.  Women, on the bubble of qualifying for Kona, are on average racing 10% more than their male counterparts (who actually qualify for Kona due to the fact that there are more Kona slots available for the pro men).

Based on these numbers let’s take two hypothetical pros, one male and one female.  If both race and win Ironman Arizona and Ironman Coeur D’Alene (and no other races), the male pro will have accumulated enough points to qualify for Kona and the female pro will be sitting on the couch at home on October 10, 2015.

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