On the eve of the 2012 Ironman Lottery which starts November 1, the World Triathlon Corporation announced changes to the system for choosing triathletes to compete in the Ironman World Championship next October.
The key change will be to establish the Ironman Legacy Program designed to offer an increased chance of selection for 100 lottery slots allocated in the field of 1,850 for athletes based on the number of years they have entered the lottery. An additional 100 lottery slots will be awarded to general age group athletes regardless of previous attempts to enter the lottery.
In addition, there will be slots for five physically challenged athletes to compete in the 2012 Ironman World Championship.
“As the popularity of the sport continues to grow, qualifying for the Ironman World Championship becomes more difficult,” stated WTC CEO Andrew Messick in a statement. “More than 70,000 athletes are competing for only a handful of coveted slots [and] the Ironman Lottery provides another way for athletes to enter the race and cross the finish line on Ali`i Drive.”
According to the WTC release, the Ironman Legacy Program offers increased chances of selection for those who have entered the lottery many times: “For each year an athlete has registered since 2001, his or her chances increase accordingly. For example, if an athlete registers for the 2012 Ironman Lottery and has registered for every lottery from 2001 through 2012, he or she will have 12 chances of being selected for a lottery slot into the 2012 Ironman World Championship.”
In addition, the WTC notes, Passport Club membership would give each athlete an additional chance of being selected – up to a maximum of 13 lottery entries.
Criteria for the Legacy program will be rigorous. Those 100 athletes chosen “must have completed a minimum of 12 Ironman-branded races, have never started the Ironman World Championship, have completed at least one Ironman event in each of the 2010 and 2011 seasons and be registered for an Ironman event in 2012.”
Messick said that the program was designed to reward the loyalty of the athletes whose dream it is to compete at the birthplace of the Ironman.
“Ironman athletes are incredibly loyal to our sport and we want to continue to find ways to recognize that loyalty,” he said. “Kona is the symbolic and spiritual home of triathlon and people deeply involved in the sport should get the opportunity to experience that. While many serious athletes will qualify for a spot at the starting line, the Ironman Legacy Program is an equally difficult but different way for them to get there."
Mdessick added that the new aspects of the Lottery are meant to "revitalize a program that’s part of our company’s rich history -- one that ensures athletes committed to living the triathlon lifestyle get their chance to follow their dream to Kona.”
The Ironman lottery began in 1983 as a way to comply with Ironman founder John Collins’ wishes that the soon-to-be sold out Ironman should always be open to the ordinary man seeking to do extraordinary things.
More than 7,000 athletes apply for the Ironman lottery every year. In 1990, the WTC started the Passport Club which offered gave athletes an increased chance of selection by giving them one additional entry in the lottery.
Registration for the 2012 Ironman Lottery and the new Legacy Program will open at noon ET tomorrow, Nov. 1, at www.ironmanworldchampionship.com and will close on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.