In an article written for Outsideonline.com, Triathlete Editor-in-Chief Julia Polloreno looks at both sides of the gender equality issue when it comes to professional slot allocation at the Ironman World Championship.
Ironman is a pretty enlightened place when it comes to gender equality. Men and women have enjoyed equal prize purses at Ironman’s World Championship race in Kona since the event started offering cash to winners in 1986. And at each of the 100 Ironman races around the world, the pro men and women split winnings equally. But there’s one major sticking point: there are 15 more slots for pro male competitors at Ironman’s World Championship in Kona than there are for women. In a recent statement, the company stood its ground, defending the decision to not close the gap. But it’s time things evened up for our pros, for the greater good of the sport.
Throughout the event’s history, more male than female pros have toed the line at Kona. Before 2011, pro Kona slots totaled 10 percent of the total number of slots assigned to a particular race. If there were 100 total Kona slots awarded at the IM Wisconsin event, for example, 10 of those slots would go to pro athletes. The number of males and females who earned a spot was then allocated based on the percentage of male and female pros at that specific event. Say 100 pros raced, for example—60 men, 40 women. In that case, six men and four women would qualify. Because more men than women raced, more men earned a spot at Kona.
But in 2011, World Triathlon Corporation, the private equity-owned company that puts on the global Ironman series, instituted a more complicated points-system approach for pros. With an expanding global race portfolio—and each race offering Kona qualifying spots—WTC adjusted the pro qualifying process to get only the most competitive athletes on the Kona start line. With the new points system, the number of pro qualifiers shrank from a peak of 156 pros in 2008 (98 men, 58 women) to 89 pros last year, while the overall number of Kona competitors rose from 1,867 to 2,301. Now the top 50 pro men, as determined by the newer points-based ranking system, get to go to Kona. But only the top 35 women do. For a professional world championship event, the numbers seem arbitrary.
Read more: Outsideonline.com