No, Ironman does not “sell” slots for the Ironman World Championship in St. George
So what’s going on with qualifying for the upcoming Ironman World Championship in St. George? Yesterday we reported a story from PlanetaTriatlon that implied Ironman was “selling” tickets to the upcoming World Championship in St. George. (In case you missed it, when Ironman was forced to postpone last year’s world championship in Kona, it was decided to host the “2021” race in St. George, Utah.)
Ironman moves world championship to St. George in May 2022; Kona race in October features two-day format
To start, let’s make it clear why there had to be a race in May in the first place. Ironman was going to have a 2021 World Championship – they wanted to give pro athletes a chance to make some money, they had athletes who had qualified for the World Championships as early as 2019 desperately waiting for their chance to compete in the Ironman Championships. world, and they wanted to have a full qualifying season for the 2022 worlds without having to deal with all the athletes who had qualified either at the end of 2019 or at events that may have taken place in 2020 or 2021. In total , there will be approximately 6,000 athletes who have qualified over the past three years and are looking to compete at the world championships.
St. George, who could guarantee a race would take place, was a great answer to the problem. But…well, it’s not Kona. Of course, for the pros, it’s a world championship. There is US$750,000 up for grabs across 15 depths. For many age group athletes, however, the mystique of Kona trumps the mystique of a world championship.
Ironman understands this. As much as people love to criticize the company as a corporate giant that only cares about the bottom line, but it has a CEO (Andrew Messick) who is about as hungry for age group athletes as it gets. . They have therefore given athletes the option of deferring their registration for the Kona event scheduled for October 2022. This race has been extended to two days to accommodate the expected number of athletes likely to compete.
OK, so let’s get back to St. George.
First, we’ve already reported that Utah organizers have made it clear that they’re not trying to be the next Kona.
“We have the greatest honor and respect for the mystique and magic of racing in Kona,” said Kevin Lewis, director of tourism for the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office. “We don’t feel like we’re trying to replace Kona at all – we see this as an opportunity to help out and do something unique. The Greater Zion region will have its own brand of stamina.
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And, when it comes to questions about the athletes competing in the race at St. George, let’s be clear – as an age group athlete, you’ve always had to pay for an Ironman spot. Even in the good old days of the Ironman lottery, you paid for a chance to enter the lottery, paid more for a chance to have a better lottery shot, and then also paid your entry if you managed to win any. one of those slots. The lottery was ruled illegal in 2015 and Ironman ‘agreed to lose $2.76 million’ according to Reuters, the program was therefore transformed into a “Legacy” program which offered any athlete who had participated in 12 Ironman events and had never reached Kona a place in the world championships. Again, you must pay an entry fee for the race.
A look at the St. George race website indicates that there are just under 2,300 athletes registered for this year’s race. (That doesn’t include the pros – there should be around 100.) According to Ironman sources, they think they can accommodate 3,800 competitors in St. George. This is based on the huge area available for transition (you don’t need to block the bikes on the pier), the new wave starts being implemented at the world championships in 2019 and the challenging course that hopefully , can divide the peloton thanks to the many and difficult climbs.
Once they went through the list of qualifiers and legacy athletes who wanted a chance to race at St. George, Ironman then created a new list of “loyal” athletes and developed a “loyalty and legend” program. “. This included athletes who have competed in at least 20 Ironman races and have competed in company events for at least 20 years. What differentiates these people from former athletes is that they could have competed in Kona and still be eligible for the St. George race.
Once they went through that list, they started inviting All World Athlete (AWA) gold competitors to the race, which sparked the story that appeared on PlanetaTriatlon.
If you talk to people about Ironman, they’ll tell you that the goal here is to provide athletes with opportunities that might not have been available in recent years. They reward loyal customers and make the most of a brutal situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And I have no doubt that all of this is true.
While Ironman certainly isn’t “selling” slots at St. George Worlds, it does seem to be “watering down” the mystique of competing at the Ironman World Championship. Over the past year, the vast majority of competitors at the world championships had qualified for the chance to start in Kona. In the days of the lottery, there were a few hundred athletes who had won their place through the luck of the draw. There were probably fewer than that number who were able to take advantage of the Legacy program each year. In St. George, however, if they manage to score 3,800 points in the race, many of the athletes on the starting line will not have earned their spot with a first-place finish at an Ironman.
So, yes, Ironman will make a lot of dreams come true. And, yes, they will reward many loyal customers. It is not hard to say, however, that they will take away some of the aura of competition at the world championships. Perhaps only Ironman’s most serious competitors will feel this, but whether the company likes it or not, the optics aren’t the best.