In an email sent to its professional athletes last week, Ironman CEO Andrew Messick confirmed that the company will need to be flexible with the pros in coming months, as the COVID-19 situation changes weekly and varies drastically from region to region.
The pandemic, he wrote, remains unpredictable, however, “we can share the philosophical framework we have developed from which we are planning to move forward when the conditions allow for pro events to happen.”
Most notably, Messick wrote, and Ironman officials confirmed, prize money and World Championship slots will “reflect where our professional athletes are currently.” With travel restrictions preventing athletes from crossing borders in many cases, likely for the foreseeable future, Ironman will attempt to move slots and prize money to where athletes are. For example, about half of Ironman-registered pro athletes currently live in Europe, so about half of the prize money and Worlds slots will come from European races.
Because of this, the company will make changes to both prize purses and slots depending on the field size at a given race. “This means that in some cases we will not know the total prize purse until race weekend,” wrote Messick in the email. While the prize money at the World Championships will remain the same, other races may be adjusted.
Ironman will also spread the prize money more broadly across the professional field, paying deeper in order to help pros not at the top of the standings earn a paycheck during this crisis.
Additionally, the current validation rules for automatic qualifiers—previous winners and podium finishers—will no longer be in place. Those athletes will simply receive an invitation to the world championships.
The 2020 Ironman World Championships have already been rescheduled to February and the 70.3 World Championships, which were set to be held in New Zealand in November, have also been pushed to the spring but no date has yet been announced. Pros attempting to qualify for either race or earn prize money are faced with the same issues as age-group athletes: few races on the calendar and little certainty around which ones will actually happen. There have also been and will likely continue to be large regional differences in whether races are available and which athletes can access them.
Some currently-scheduled races qualify athletes for the 2020 World Championships to be held in 2021 and some qualify for the 2021 World Championship. For example, on the current pro calendar, Florida 70.3, which was rescheduled to December, still qualifies for 2020 Worlds, while races like Nice 70.3 and Zell Am See 70.3 (scheduled for September and August, respectively) qualify for 2021 Worlds. The current pro schedule is available here.