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Ironman

A Kona Pro Rankings (KPR) Update

With four months to go until the 2014 Ironman World Championship, the Kona Pro Rankings (KPR) list is starting to shape up.

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With four months to go until the 2014 Ironman World Championship, the Kona Pro Rankings (KPR) list is starting to shape up.

If you’re unfamiliar with how the KPR system works, here’s a little refresher: Starting from Aug. 31, 2013, professional athletes have been earning points toward the 2014 KPR, which is the ranking system Ironman uses to determine pro athlete eligibility to compete at the Ironman World Championship. An athlete’s five highest scoring Ironman-branded races count toward their KPR, and at least one of those races must be a full-distance Ironman (Kona doesn’t count) and no more than three Ironman 70.3 races will count. The top 40 male and top 28 female pros in the KPR as of July 27, 2014, will be qualified to race in Kona 2014, and any slots that are declined will roll down to the next highest qualifier. By Aug. 24, 2014, the final 10 male and seven female pros will be offered slots to race in Kona. Outside of the 50 men and 35 women who qualify, any Ironman world champion from the last five years, and last year’s Ironman 70.3 world champions and Hy-Vee champions will be invited to compete in the 2014 Ironman Hawaii, granted they validate their slot with a full-distance Ironman finish (they don’t need to earn enough points to qualify in the KPR). We should know our Kona start list by Aug. 31.

The Men

As a two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion and 2013 Kona podium finisher, it’s no surprise that German Sebastian Kienle tops the KPR. He plans to validate his slot at Ironman Frankfurt in July. Reigning Kona champ Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium is sitting in second, and will also validate his slot in Frankfurt, and because both Van Lierde and Kienle are recent champions, they won’t be counted in the top 50 men. With top-10 finishes at both the Ironman and 70.3 world champs last year, plus a finish at Ironman Florida late last year, American Tim O’Donnell is currently ranked third.

The usual suspects are in the top 50 and have already validated with an Ironman finish—Kona runner-up Luke McKenzie (AUS), South African James Cunnama, Spaniard Eneko Llanos, Kona veteran Faris Al-Sultan (GER) and Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel. Also, Austrian Michael Weiss is back in the KPR after a two-year ban and has quickly earned points—he won Ironman Cozumel in December, placed fourth at Ironman Melbourne and was third at Ironman 70.3 St. Polten. Three-time Kona champ Craig “Crowie” Alexander is sitting in 20th and has validated his slot, but he announced earlier this year his retirement from Ironman racing.

A few men who are expected to race Kona and have yet to validate are Belgian Bart Aernouts, last year’s sixth-place Kona finisher Ivan Raña of Spain, super-swimmer Andy Potts (USA), German Timo Bracht and American Ben Hoffman.

Men’s KPR Top 50:
1. Sebastian Kienle (GER)*
2. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL)*
3. Tim O’Donnell (USA)
4. Luke McKenzie (AUS)
5. James Cunnama (RSA)
6. Tyler Butterfield (BER)
7. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL)
8. Ivan Raña (ESP)*
9. Victor Morales (ESP)
10. Igor Amorelli (BRA)
11. Michael Weiss (AUS)
12. Joe Gambles (AUS)
13. Bart Aernouts (BEL)*
14. Eneko Llanos (ESP)
15. Faris Al-Sultan (GER)
16. David Dellow (AUS)
17. Paul Matthews (AUS)
18. Dirk Bockel (LUX)
19. Nils Frommhold (GER)
20. Craig Alexander (AUS)
21. Romain Guillaume (FRA)
22. Jan Frodeno (GER)*
23. Andrew Starykowicz (USA)
24. Maik Twelsiek (GER)
25. Andy Potts (USA)*
26. Timo Bracht (GER)*
27. Tim Reed (AUS)
28. Jeremy Jurkiewicz (FRA)
29. Matthew Russell (USA)
30. Daniel Fontana (ITA)
31. Elliot Holtham (CAN)
32. Bevan Docherty (NZL)
33. Tim Van Berkel (AUS)
34. Marko Albert (EST)
35. Marek Jaskolka (POL)
36. Petr Vabrousek (CZE)
37. Chris McDonald (USA)
38. Ben Hoffman (USA)*
39. Christian Kramer (GER)
40. Richie Cunningham (AUS)*
41. Jordan Rapp (USA)
42. Tim Don (GBR)*
43. Markus Thomschke (GER)
44. Axel Zeebroek (BEL)
45. Kevin Collington (USA)
46. Will Clarke (GBR)*
47. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL)
48. Filip Ospaly (CZE)
49. Domenico Passuello (ITA)
50. Leon Griffin (AUS)*

*Has not yet officially validated by completing a full Ironman in qualifying year.

While Kona is still a ways off, there are a number of notable pro men who are currently ranked way outside the top 50. Most of them haven’t raced a full Ironman yet in the qualifying year, and when they do, that will earn them valuable points toward a Kona slot.

Men Outside the Top 50:
69. Kyle Buckingham (RSA): Buckingham was the top age-grouper in Kona 2013 and finished 16th overall.

71. Trevor Wurtele (CAN): The 2013 Ironman Canada champion validated with a sixth-place finish in Arizona, and just needs to earn a few more points to be within reach of a Kona slot.

91. Tom Lowe (GBR): Lowe, who’s placed as high as 11th in Kona, has had a slow start to the year with fifth place at Ironman New Zealand and a few points gathered from 70.3 races, but he still has plenty of time to close the gap.

98. Brandon Marsh (USA): Marsh, who was 22nd in Kona last year, validated at Ironman Texas, but he hasn’t indicated whether he hopes to race Hawaii again this year.

101. Greg Bennett (AUS/USA)*: While veteran short-course racer Bennett made his Kona debut last year, after having won Hy-Vee in 2012, he hasn’t made it clear whether he wants to give the lava fields another go.

103. Pete Jacobs (AUS)*: As a recent Kona champion, Jacobs only needs to validate with a full Ironman finish to punch his ticket to Kona.

114. Paul Amey (GBR)*: The British veteran pro hasn’t raced much since his 17th-place finish in Kona last year—illness kept him from defending his title at Ironman Texas last month.

123. Jimmy Johnsen (DEN): Johnsen was 23rd in Kona last year, and will be earning valuable KPR points at Ironman Cairns this weekend.

127. Andreas Raelert (GER)*: A multiple podium finisher in Kona, Raelert’s DNF in 2013 gave him a major disadvantage in the 2014 KPR. So far this season, he’s only raced a few local races, had a podium finish at Ironman 70.3 Mallorca last month, and has a few more non-Ironman races on his schedule.

147. Andi Boecherer (GER)*: The German has finished as high as eighth at the Ironman World Championship (2011), but an accident in in St. Lucia in April has affected his plans for the season.

159. T.J. Tollakson (USA)*: Tollakson only has two more races on his schedule—Ironman Canada and Ironman 70.3 Kansas—which may not be enough to move him up more than 100 spots in the rankings.

193. Luke Bell (AUS)*: We haven’t heard much from Bell this year as he DNF’ed at both Ironman Australia and 70.3 Honu, and he’s been battling a knee injury.

*Has not raced a full Ironman in the qualifying year.

The Women

Topping the list is American Meredith Kessler, who—in addition to a seventh-place Kona finish last year—has already racked up points at Ironman Arizona, Ironman New Zealand and a couple of 70.3’s. Reigning Ironman world champ and automatic qualifier Mirinda Carfrae of Australia has already validated her Kona slot with an Ironman Florida finish late last year. With a fifth-place Kona finish and a win at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne, Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen is currently ranked third.

In the top 35 are an impressive number of American women besides Kessler: Caitlin Snow (who still needs to validate with an Ironman finish), Linsey Corbin, 2012 fifth-place Kona finisher Mary Beth Ellis, Jessie Donavan, super-swimmer Amanda Stevens, Kelly Williamson (who chose not to race Kona in 2013) and Bree Wee. Other usual Kona suspects made the list: 2013 runner-up Rachel Joyce; Dutch veteran Yvonne Van Vlerken (fourth in 2013); Kiwi Gina Crawford; Denmark’s Michelle Vesterby; and Aussie Rebekah Keat. Last year’s third-place finisher Liz Blatchford has yet to validate with an Ironman finish, as does 2012 Kona champ Leanda Cave. It’s good to see Great Britain’s Cat Morrison back in the KPR after an 18-month break from the sport—she earned valuable points at Ironman Lake Tahoe and some high-point 70.3’s.

Women’s KPR Top 35:
1. Meredith Kessler (USA)
2. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
3. Caroline Steffen (SUI)
4. Rachel Joyce (GBR)
5. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED)
6. Liz Blatchford (AUS)*
7. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS)
8. Gina Crawford (NZL)
9. Catriona Morrison (GBR)
10. Caitlin Snow (USA)*
11. Linsey Corbin (USA)
12. Lucy Gossage (GBR)
13. Michelle Vesterby (DEN)
14. Mary Beth Ellis (USA)
15. Jessie Donavan (USA)
16. Amanda Stevens (USA)
17. Annabel Luxford (AUS)*
18. Åsa Lundström (SWE)
19. Julia Gajer (GER)
20. Angela Naeth (CAN)
21. Lisa Marangon (AUS)
22. Heather Jackson (USA)*
23. Elizabeth Lyles (USA)
24. Rebekah Keat (AUS)
25. Mareen Hufe (GER)
26. Sophie Goos (BEL)
27. Leanda Cave (GBR)*
28. Jodie Swallow (GBR)
29. Simone Brändli (SUI)
30. Svenja Bazlen (GER)*
31. Lisa Hütthaler (AUT)
32. Kelly Williamson (USA)
33. Bree Wee (USA)
34. Kimberly Schwabenbauer (USA)
35. Melanie Burke (NZL)

*Has not officially validated with an Ironman finish.

While Kona is still a ways off, there are a number of notable pro women who are currently ranked outside the top 35. Some of them haven’t raced a full Ironman yet in the qualifying year, and if and when they do, that will earn them valuable points toward a Kona slot.

Women Outside the Top 35:
37. Heather Wurtele (CAN)*: The Canadian, who’s finished as high as eighth in Kona (2011) has been getting faster, shown by her 70.3 Oceanside win and 70.3 St. George podium, both in stacked pro fields. Once she completes a full-distance Ironman, she’ll secure a spot in the top 35.

38. Rebecca Hoschke (AUS): Hoschke is just on the bubble and should have a good shot at making it back to the Big Island to improve on her 2013 18th-place finish, especially after racing Ironman Cairns this weekend.

48. Sara Gross (CAN): After earning a victory at Ironman Brazil, Gross will want redemption for her 2013 Kona DNF.

49. Amy Marsh (USA)*: A perennial Hawaii racer, Marsh should return to the Big Island (where she finished 17th last year) if she puts in a solid performance at July’s Ironman Frankfurt.

56. Natascha Badmann (SUI)*: The original “Swiss Miss” and six-time Kona champ finished a respectable 14th place last year, and while she hasn’t raced much this year, a few strong performances would punch her ticket to Kona.

77. Haley Chura (USA): The second-year pro and strong swimmer finished 24th in the women’s pro race in Kona and was fifth at Ironman Los Cabos but will need a few more podium finishes to get back to the Kona start line.

82. Corinne Abraham (GBR): After her dominant win at the 2013 Ironman Melbourne, there was talk of Abraham being the next Chrissie Wellington, but an injury derailed her plans. So far this season, she made the podium at Ironman Lanzarote and will be racing Frankfurt in July.

84. Camilla Pedersen (DEN)*: It’s great to see Pedersen back to racing again—after a near-fatal accident last year, she only got back on her bike and January and has since won Ironman 70.3 Barcelona in May and Ironman 70.3 Italy last weekend. It’s not clear whether she plans to make it back to Ironman racing this year, but if and when she does, she could be a serious contender.

85. Julie Dibens (GBR)*: After we saw the British super-cyclist drop out of Kona despite a 10-minute lead over Chrissie Wellington in 2011, the 2010 podium finisher has had a long road to recovery. It’s good to see she’s back to road triathlon this year (she raced in the 2013 Amgen Tour of California women’s time trial and the 2013 Xterra Mountain Championship) with a fourth-place finish in Oceanside and a fifth-place finish at Ironman 70.3 St. George. She hasn’t made it clear whether she plans to give Kona another go.

*Has not raced a full Ironman in the qualifying year.