Exactly one month out from the first qualifying cutoff, Craig Alexander of Australia and Leanda Cave of Great Britain lead the Kona Pro Rankings (KPR). The 50 top men and 35 top women in the KPR, plus a few automatic qualifiers, will have the chance to toe the line at the sport’s premier event, the Ironman World Championship.
In order to qualify, each athlete has to earn points from racing Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races, including one full-distance Ironman outside of Kona each qualifying year (which, for the 2013 race, began in September 2012). Those who are ranked in the top 40 men and top 28 women will be offered a slot to Kona on July 28, provided they’ve qualified. Any declined slots will roll down to the next highest athlete. The next 10 pro men and seven pro women will be decided by Aug. 25. The one caveat, however, is that anyone who’s won Kona in the last five years need only race a full-distance Ironman in the qualifying year to automatically have a slot to Kona. Also, the 2012 70.3 and 5150 (Hy-Vee) world champions have an automatic spot, granted they’ve raced a full-distance Ironman. These automatic qualifiers, if ranked in the top 50 men and 35 women, don’t take a slot away from another athlete.
While the rankings will definitely see changes over the next two months, it’s interesting to see where the top athletes currently sit and who will have to chase points (and an Ironman finish) before the end of August.
Three-time Ironman world champion Craig Alexander of Australia, with his runner-up 70.3 worlds finish, third-place Ironman Melbourne finish and two 70.3 victories is sitting in the top position. Since he’s won the Ironman World Championship in the last five years, he needed only to race a qualifying full-distance Ironman to be guaranteed a slot.
Germany’s Sebastian Kienle, the reigning 70.3 world champion and last year’s fourth-place Kona finisher, is sitting in second. He still has not qualified with a full-distance Ironman, however, but he has the Ironman European Championship in his home country on his schedule. He’s been battling illness so far this season, and didn’t start Challenge Kraichgau as planned, so we’ll see if he’s healthy enough to punch his ticket to Kona.
Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde, who was third in Kona last year, is fresh off a win at Ironman France last weekend, putting him in third place in the KPR. American Tim O’Donnell is in fourth due to his fourth-place Vegas finish last year and his Ironman Brazil win earlier this year. In fifth is reigning Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs, who still needs to qualify with a full Ironman finish, which he’ll do at Ironman Frankfurt on July 7.
Other highly ranked athletes who still haven’t raced a full Ironman this season are Kona runner-up Andreas Raelert of Germany, who’s scheduled to race Ironman Klagenfurt in Austria this weekend; American Andy Potts, last year’s top American Kona finisher, who’ll race Ironman Lake Placid on July 28; and Australian Team TBB athlete David Dellow, who plans to race Ironman Frankfurt after battling a nagging hip injury earlier this season. Two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack, who has validated his spot with a full-distance race, will automatically be given a slot since he’s won Kona in the last five years.
There are a few men expected to race Kona sitting outside the top 50 rankings, however: Germany’s Andi Boecherer, who plans to race Ironman Frankfurt, is ranked 63rd. Great Britain’s Tom Lowe is ranked 67th but has raced a full-distance Ironman, and France’s Romain Guillaume is in 70th and still needs to race a full Ironman.
In the women’s KPR, Great Britain’s Leanda Cave leads the way thanks to her 2012 Kona and Vegas wins, and validated her spot at Ironman Arizona last November. Kona runner-up Caroline Steffen of Switzerland is in second after her third-place finish at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship. New Zealand’s Gina Crawford, who was seventh in Kona last year, has raced three Ironman races already this season, including a fifth-place finish at Ironman Melbourne, and runner-up finishes and Ironman Cairns and Ironman New Zealand, putting her in third in the rankings.
Currently sitting in fourth is American Team TBB athlete Mary Beth Ellis, who finished fifth in Kona last year, and has won two Ironmans and two 70.3s. Ranked fifth is American Meredith Kessler, who’s had a busy racing season, including a 70.3 U.S. Pro Championship win in St. George and an Ironman New Zealand victory.
The only woman in the top 35 who hasn’t validated with a full-distance Ironman yet is American Kelly Williamson, who said earlier this year that she won’t be racing Kona this season.
See the complete rankings at Ironmanpromembership.com.
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