Title XIX helped to inspire gender equality in sports and today 2/5 girls participate in some type of high school sport. But beyond high school and college sports, many women take their training to professional levels and for the most part still have to work harder than their male counterparts to achieve "professional" status and work towards funding for their dreams.
But of the women who choose Iron distance triathlon as their passion, Kona ranks the highest acclamation. The iconic Kona Ironman has been one the most televised triathlon competitions in the world. But for the female athlete, she has to work harder than her male counterparts as Kona Ironman allows 50 males compared to the top 35 females.
Sara Gross is a professional Iron distance athlete. She has performed in dozens of Ironman's throughout the world and finished in the top 5 more than 20 times. When asked about the misrepresentation at this race, Sara responded:
"For me this fight is about so much more than a few spots for the professional women at the World Championships. Its about the fact that Triathlon has, from the beginning, been a sport of gender equity. The current inequality of opportunity is a deviation from this precedent. We want our professional women to be represented at the Ironman World Championships in equal numbers because these amazing women represent and inspire ALL women, who make up half the world."
The problem lies within the qualifying procedure for Kona as well as the spaces available for women to race. According to Thorsten's Triathlon Rating, over the last few years, the system that professional triathletes use to qualify for Kona has become increasingly complicated. I qualifying for the minimal slots in Kona, female Pros are pushed into the bigger point races that don't occur often enough for recovery and proper training.
Beth Gerdes, professional triathlete, laments in her California Training on blogspot about qualifying for Kona:
Photo Credit: Beth Gerdes California Training
"If I were a man, this would have been enough. End of story. After Ironman Melbourne, with my 4,515 points, I could have said, Ahhhhhh... time to rest, re-assess, and plan my build to Ironman Hawaii like a true professional. But alas, I am a woman. Women have 35 slots to the Ironman World Championships and men have 50. There are more men that compete as professionals, hence the arbitrary allocation of fewer slots. However, in the past 10 years, the depth of the women's field has increased dramatically and in my opintion, the top 100 women and top 100 men are completely comparable. Because of this parity, women compete more fiercely and frequently to get to Kona."
What can you do about this situation? Sign the petition for equality in Kona Ironman and share your voice.