2022 Worlds Update: St. George in May, Kona in October; Kona Split into 2 Days

There will be a pair of IRONMAN World Championships in 2022 over the full 140.6 mile distance. The 2021 Supersapiens IRONMAN World Championship will be held in St. George, Utah, on May 7, 2022, just as the “2020 Olympics” were held in 2021. This will be one race, on one day, with all genders.

The 2022 IRONMAN World Championships will be held in October and in Kona, as usual. But in a first, the mens and (mostly) womens races will be held separately, on separate days: Oct. 6th and 8th. In order to balance field sizes there will be some age group males racing the same day as the womens race. The IRONMAN full-distance World Championship will feature 50 pro women with the professional course all to themselves. This is an event of major historic import because the womens race has always been impacted by the presence of the pro men. Not so this October. The mens pro field will also host 50 qualifiers.

The 2021 IRONMAN World Championship held in St. George, Utah

The uncertainty surrounding Kona event scheduled for February, 2022 pushed all parties toward a more predictable solution. Pros competing in the St. George event will race for a $750,000 total purse. Age group athletes who’ve already entered in this event will be grandfathered in, and that’s about 2,500 entrants. Registration in the St. George race was recently, quietly, shut off in anticipation of this announcement to make room for those who have exhibited World Championship credentials and may want to enter.

Yes, this means that the existing 2,500 entrants in this event have unwittingly entered a World Championship, and without the need to qualify. They will have the option to defer their entry to another non-World Championship IRONMAN race if they so choose.

Who will be eligible to qualify into this World Championship, filling out the extra (up to) 1,500 slots? If you are registered for the IRONMAN World Championships in 2021 or 2022 you have the opportunity to choose between the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St. George, to be contested on May 7, 2022; or the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona in October of 2022. The default is for WC qualifiers to remain entered in the Kona race. If these athletes do nothing, they will be entered in that October, 2022 race. Same thing for Legacy registrants.

So then, who is eligible to enter the St. George WC race? For the pros it’s whomever qualified for the prior 2020 and 2021 events. For the AGers, how are one’s age group world championship bona fides established? This is unclear to me. If one is eligible to qualify for St. George because one met the qualification bar to get into Kona, then the paragraph above is moot: I could elect to keep my Kona WC slot in October of 2022, but nevertheless enter St. George because I meet the criteria for a WC race. I don’t have to choose, in this case. I’ll update this as I know more.

The 2022 IRONMAN World Championship held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

The Hawaiian IRONMAN World Championship will be held in Kona on October 6th and 8th, 2022, a Thursday and a Saturday. The current Kona 2022 qualification season will proceed as planned, and 2 days of racing next October the current and accumulated KQ demand should be satisfied.

The previous cap at Kona has been about 2,550 athletes. There may be a way to increase that a bit, and splitting the race into 2 days does make it possible to increase the field size of each race a bit while keeping each race relatively fair. Each race is expected to contain between 2,500 and 3,000 athletes.

To Be Determined

As noted there will be men in the “womens” race, in order to balance the field sizes. These will be age group mens waves. It is not yet announced which waves those will be.

When would awards be for the Thursday race? Friday? Probably. When would folks leave the island who take part in a Thursday race? Saturday? That will take some planning, to get to the airport during the Saturday race. I’ve done this several times. It’s achievable but not straightforward. One must drive the “high road”, dropping down to the Queen K Highway just before the airport turnoff. And of course the most important question: on which day will Slowtwitch hold its Kona Party?!

Will the World Championships remain in Kona annually after 2022? Most likely. Our poll right now on that question is 60/40 in favor of staying in Kona. The outstanding questions are these: How will St. George go as a World Championship? How successful will it be? How receptive will the triathlon world be to this non-Kona World Championship? And, how will separate races go in Kona? Will Kona continue to offer this option? Will the Island absorb the incremental increase in participants and families? Are there enough accommodations? Will folks be happy staying out in Waikoloa, where there are plenty of unsold hotel rooms and condos? Will there be enough rental cars on the Island?

If the 2-race paradigm works well for all parties in Kona in 2022, and Kona agrees to continue the experiment, there will be little appetite to move the World Championship from Kona. If that race is less than a success for all concerned, and the St. George World Championship is well received, that would advance the cause of a rotating World Championship, especially if prospective IRONMAN World Championship venues agree to host 2 days of racing.

There is an ongoing discussion on our Reader Forum about this.