Kona World Championships: Are They Just Giving It Away Now?

Kona is the pinnacle race for anybody who dares enter the starting chute of an Ironman event.  You may 'just' want to finish but deep down inside you know that you are dreaming of being in the waters of Hawaii ready to race the ultimate in Ironman events.  I have this goal, which was once a dream, of qualifying for Kona and racing with the best in the world.  I am pushing my body and my mind on an almost daily basis envisioning this and doing whatever it is I need to do to get there.  I may not get there in 2014 or 2015 or not until I am 75 but I will get there and I will be in Kona because I qualified and not because I was given an exemption by World Triathlon Corporation. Why am I saying this?  I am saying this because this weekend during my travels through the interwebs I saw a few things that really bothered me about WTC and Kona and I wanted to get it off my chest as well as hear from you and get your thoughts.  We all know that it is very difficult to qualify for Kona as you have to be your best on that day to beat the best and nab a highly coveted slot.  Qualifying for Kona is not like qualifying for the Boston Marathon where you have a time you must beat and then have the opportunity to get into the race.  To qualify for Kona you not only have to be fast but you have to be faster than the fastest competitors.  Let's say you race an Ironman and finish in 10:22 which is a 1 hour PR for you but there are only 6 slots in your AG and that finish puts you at 50th.  Unless 38 other athletes ahead of you pass you are not going to Kona.  It is difficult and it should be. [caption id="attachment_8351" align="alignright" width="300"]kona - hines ward - kansas Hines Ward Finishes 70.3 Kansas[/caption] What WTC is doing, and has been doing more of recently, seems to be just giving Kona slots away.  I applaud them for the Legacy clause where a person who races 12 Ironman events gets an opportunity to go to Kona as you are rewarding your most loyal customers.  On the other hand I am disgusted by the fact that celebrities are getting in without having raced an Ironman at all.  This year it is Hines Ward and while I truly enjoyed his spunk on the football field I am not happy with the idea that he is going to Kona and racing without having to qualify.  Would he qualify?  Not this year as evidenced by his time at 70.3 Kansas and thus he would have to work like the rest of us to get stronger and faster in order to beat the best to get there. Then there is Gordon Ramsay.  Did you know he is racing Ironman?  Don't know who Gordon Ramsay is?  He is the guy whose shows Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef will make you think twice about becoming a restaurant chef.  Chef Ramsay was going to race Ironman New Zealand but had to pull out due to an injury and is now going to be racing in Kona.  How did this happen?  If I got hurt prior to Ironman Texas would I have been sent an invite to Kona or would they have just said sorry buddy but we are also keeping your entry fee.  Shouldn't Chef Ramsay be governed by the same rules that govern the Age Groupers, whom without Ironman doesn't exist? Lastly, the whole Refuel With Chocolate Milk concept has entered the annoying phase for me.  Athletes competing to go to Kona not through qualifying but through votes.  Have people vote for you and boom you are off to Hawaii to race in the most coveted Ironman race in the world.  Qualifications for this:

If you’re a passionate athlete who refuels with lowfat chocolate milk after a tough training session, race or competition, APPLY now to become a sponsored athlete of Team REFUEL by submitting a 60 second video that explains your post-workout routine and how chocolate milk plays a part. If you’re chosen, you score $500 in sponsorship money and top notch training gear, along with the potential for free race entries to our program partners Rock ‘n’ Roll and IRONMAN, and team support throughout your 2013 training and competition.

Nothing there about having had to have raced an Ironman before.  Just sign up shoot a video, talk about chocolate milk and get votes.  Not really a lot of endurance needed for that now is there.

I have nothing against those that are entering their names into the Chocolate Milk sweepstakes but instead my issue is with WTC and the slots that are being handed out instead of being earned.  Are these handouts devaluing the Kona qualifying?  Where do the corporate exemptions stop?  I can recall seeing a clip of a woman from the Biggest Loser racing in Kona along with Joe Bastianich (who is also on Master Chef) racing at Kona.  I don't know what they did to qualify or how they get there but I can almost guarantee you that they were not beating out the best of the best to earn that slot.

I don't know if WTC is taking away slots but if they are that is an injustice and a slap in the face of the athletes who pour their heart and souls into the sport on a daily basis to make an attempt at qualifying for Kona.  I have a goal of getting there and I am putting in the work and when I see slots being handed out to people just because they drink chocolate milk, scored a TD in a Super Bowl or are a celebrity chef it drives me insane.  Triathlon is one sport where the average Joe has a chance to compete with the best in the world and put their abilities up against each other but having these slots be handed out to people who do not qualify is putting a wet towel around that accomplishment.

Kona Ironman World Championships: Still Hold The Same Aura?

TAGS: ironman , kona , race , milk , chocolate , best , chef
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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