After much speculation this week, Ironman officials announced today a plan for the Ironman World Championships to move out of Hawaii for this year and to become a two-day race next year.
The 2021 race, which was set to be held on Oct. 9 in Kona, Hawaii, was postponed to February after COVID numbers and travel restrictions made it impossible to hold the event. After hinting last week that every option was being explored—including moving the iconic race from the Big Island—it was confirmed today that the race, in fact, will not be held in February or in Hawaii. It will be held on May 7, 2022 in St. George, Utah, in place of and in conjunction with the Ironman St. George event scheduled for that day.
“The ongoing uncertainty regarding Kailua-Kona, Hawaii’s ability to host the event in February required a change in venue to outside of Hawaii for the first time since the inaugural event in 1978,” Ironman said in a press release.
The pros who are currently qualified for the 2021 World Championship race will be competing in Utah in May for the $750,000 prize purse. The 2,500 age-group athletes who are currently registered for the Ironman St. George race scheduled for May 7 just got lucky; they’re now part of a “world championship event.”
And what about the age-groupers who have qualified for Kona?
Well, they’ll have a few options—which hinge on the second part of today’s announcement.
As part of their plan moving forward, Ironman also announced something that’s been a long time in the making: The 2022 Ironman World Championship race will move to a two-day format, with women competing on Thursday, Oct. 6 and men competing on Saturday, Oct. 8.
There will now be an equal number of pro men and women starting (50 each) and approximately 2,500 age-groupers on each of those days. It won’t be exactly an equal number of age-group men and women, and, reportedly, the operations team is currently exploring starting some of the older men’s age groups behind the age-group women on the Thursday in order to spread out the fields. But by nearly doubling the field size, the options have now expanded for qualification and for creating clean and fair races. With so many Ironman events around the world, the number of Kona spots at each pre-pandemic race was becoming a challenge, and it’s been repeatedly noted that at the World Championship event in Hawaii it’s common to have 1,000-plus athletes exit the water within a ten-minute timeframe. This will now spread it out and allow the women’s and men’s races to exist separately.
It also allows Ironman to accommodate all the deferred athletes from the previous two years of canceled races.
Every athlete who is currently qualified for an Ironman World Championships—whether 2020, 2021, or 2022—will automatically be eligible to race at the two-day event in October 2022, unless they opt to race in the St. George event instead. The St. George championship will also potentially open up to some Ironman All-World Athletes, and the remainder of 2021 Ironman races will likely have spots to both St. George and Kona on the table. Qualified age-group athletes will be contacted directly and should keep an eye out in coming weeks for the specific details of their races.
“We expect the races in October of 2022 to be unique and historic,” said Ironman CEO Andrew Messick.
And will the two-day format continue post-COVID?
While expanding the field solves a specific pandemic problem—so many athletes have rolled over their qualifications from 2020 and 2021 it was becoming impossible to fit them all on the pier—it also serves as a test for something that has worked well at the 70.3 World Championship level: separate men’s and women’s race days.
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