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Ironman To Split World Championship Locations By Gender in 2023 And Beyond

Facing local community pressure, Ironman announced that men's field would no longer be racing at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2023.

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In a surprise decision that reversed the previously planned two-day, two-gender 2023 Hawaii Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, Ironman announced today that only the women would be racing on October 14, 2023 while the men’s fate will hang in the balance until a date and location announcement in January 2023.

“We are reinforcing our commitment for a dedicated world championship race experience for women and men to each receive an exclusive spotlight on their race,” said Andrew Messick, president and CEO of Ironman. “Hawai`i is in our DNA and we look forward to the first-ever exclusively women’s world championship race week in Kona. At the same time, we are looking forward to announcing a co-host location for the men’s race that will be worthy of an Ironman World Championship and will capture the imagination of our athletes and fans.”

According to Ironman, despite the success of the two-day event in 2022—one that saw conflict with the local community and logistical challenges, due to an increase in visitors and participants—the County of Hawai’i and Ironman couldn’t come to an agreement for a two-day event moving forward.

Related: Commentary: If We Want to Be Welcomed In Kona, We’ve Got to Be Better Guests

“Hawai`i County has long enjoyed partnering with Ironman and this year’s epic races were another example of world-class athletic competition held on the traditional Kona-Kohala world championship course,” said Hawai`i County Mayor Mitch Roth. “We learned, however, that more than one race day during Ironman week is too many for the community to manage. We are pleased that Ironman plans to return to Kailua-Kona as a co-host of the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship and look forward to more exciting events in the future.”

The announcement may come as a surprise, particularly off previous news that the 2023 Ironman World Championships would be held entirely on the Big Island. As of this writing, 16 2023 IMWC qualifying events have already allocated 885 championship slots starting at the first 2023 qualification race on August 21, 2022 in Vichy, France.

Ironman has said that any male athlete who qualified for the 2023 IMWC (or received a deferral slot) with the intention of racing in Kona now has the option to race at the TBD 2023 IMWC event or the 2024 event, scheduled to be held in Kona. While the specific mechanism for handling male athletes who accepted their slot with the understanding that they’d be racing in Kona in October hasn’t yet been identified, Ironman said they would be directly contacting those affected in January.

For athletes who have registered for a future qualification event with the intention of racing in Kona 2023 and now no longer want to race, Ironman has directed racers to work directly with the individual race.

The 2024 Ironman World Championship event will feature the men’s field in Kona and the women’s field in a location to be determined, and Ironman confirmed that pro fields will follow the age-group gender locations/dates in 2023 and beyond.

In an email sent to the pro membership, Ironman communicated that “in the immediate, [pro men’s] slots will be suspended until the date and location is announced. At that time, we will do a virtual slot allocation/roll down for athletes who have earned a qualifying slot.” The email went on to say that there likely won’t be major changes to the overall pro event schedule, but there will be adjustments to the number of slots offered in the future.