The 2012 Ironman World Championship will see three starts: One for the pro men, one for the age-group field and, new for 2012, a separate start for the pro women.
Professional female participants in the Ironman World Championship have been asking for a separate start for years, with the hopes that it would cut down on women drafting off of the pro men in the swim and onto the early miles of the bike. This year, under the direction of World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) CEO Andrew Messick, the women will get their own gun time.
On race morning (Saturday, Oct. 13), the men will take off at 6:30 a.m.; followed by the women at 6:35 a.m. Age groupers will start their day at the traditional 7 a.m.
“After talking to a number of our female pros and careful consultation with our event team in Hawaii, I believe that we will have the fairest possible race by having a separate start for our pro women,” Messick said in a statement to Triathlete.com. “With this change, our pro women should be able to swim without getting a tow from the pro men and they start far enough in front of our age groupers to have a largely clean bike.”
Though many have expressed the desire for an even larger gap between the starts, the reaction has been generally positive.
“I’m really excited to hear Ironman have decided to separate the men and women’s swim starts—I think ideally it would need to be an 8 to 10 minute difference, but 5 is definitely a huge step in the right direction,” 2010 Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae said. “I think pretty much every pro athlete agrees that this is the way to go—allowing the women to have their own race.”
This is not the first time Ironman has reacted to requests for a new professional start time. Prior to 2010, professionals started 15 minutes before age groupers (at 6:45 a.m.). The start was moved to a half-hour before the mass age-group start, with the hopes that the change would prevent professional women from getting caught up in packs with the faster amateur athletes.
Visit Triathlete.com/Kona2012 for more from the Ironman World Championship.