At Trisutto.com we take commentary on our sport very seriously. We would like to think that any level of triathlete can visit our website and find an informed, truthful opinion on all matters triathlon.
That being the case, one must point out that the well intentioned and very effective #50WomentoKona campaign is in danger of missing a once in a decade opportunity to genuinely improve the sport for female professional athletes.
I believe in and have long advocated for equal representation of pro men and women at the World Championships. It is inevitable. To argue against it is to be on the wrong side of common sense, fairness and history.
However, I don’t believe that the triathlon community’s (pro and age group who have so admirably come together over this issue) efforts are best spent on an initiative that will allow 15 non-competitive athletes to spend a fortune to be able to say ‘I went to Kona.’
In the long run an extra 15 women will make little difference to the broader discrimination you all face as professional athletes.
Instead, let’s look at how we can use the goodwill #50WomentoKona have generated towards achieving equal representation into overcoming a series of underlying equity issues that I believe are fuelling the discontent we see currently directed at @CEOIronman.
A New Approach
Either the professional athlete arm of the WTC or the many supporters of #50WomentoKona should seize the momentum of the debate to move the sport to the next level of professionalism, while at the same time ensuring they achieve their objective of equal numbers for female pros.
There are a number of ways we can go about this, with my preferred option outlined below:
Extend the WTC an olive branch by saying that we are prepared to give up slots in the name of equality.
Make the pro field an intensely competitive 30 men and 30 women.
Any professional athlete who qualifies for the World Championships is awarded a $3,000 qualification bonus, $1,000 towards travel expenses and three nights paid accommodation at Kona.
This would ensure equal representation between men and women pros. It would mean that professional athletes aren’t financially penalised for achieving the highest honour in their sport – qualifying for the Hawaii World Championships. It would mean a higher standard of races necessary to qualify for Kona. Finally, it would be a step forward in eliminating the farcical situation we have at present where the Women’s World Championship is affected by drafting rules that mean slow men cause penalties for the leading women.
The question, as always, turns to money. How would it be funded?
The WTC currently give back less than 1% through the professional prize pool and their commitment to making it more difficult for professional athletes to support themselves is well documented. I believe this policy is short-sighted and should be redressed for the long-term benefit of the sport. They should open their purse strings here.
Failing that however, I would propose taking the 40 slots saved under the above model (20 from men, 20 from women) and putting them up for auction to age group athletes who would then fund the project. A potential win-win-win scenario.
Achieving some form of financial security for our professional athletes, who are often only a bad race away from financial ruin, is the key to achieving genuine equality across genders in the sport of triathlon.
One must also recognize that until recently WTC net revenues from entry fees have been close to 90% from males. Despite this and to their credit the WTC have been quick to adopt equal pay for equal work and have paid male and female athletes to equal depth. Of course the WTC should be encouraged to use the current groundswell of public opinion to take the final step in equal representation also.
But trying to beat them to death with the equality stick is not going to help the pros long term. A sustainable race framework that works in the interests of both parties [business and athletes] will.
Where did Rev 3 go? What just happened to Life Time?
After 15 year’s of fantastic service to pros they have moved on saying we just can’t work with this model any more. They are right and any pro who thinks that Life Time’s business is going to suffer as a result of this decision needs a rethink. It won’t.
So to all the supporters of #50WomentoKona, and I’m one of them, use this platform to transform your position in professional sport. Andrew Messik will grant the 50 slots. He will be relieved to do so.
What we don’t want is for him to agree, then for everyone to be happy for two weeks before realising that the genuine coming together of the tri community has been undersold on an initiative that longer term will not enhance pro women’s position in the sport.
My advice: Keep the passion. Build the momentum. Broaden your demands for real equality. It is a great opportunity for the both women and the WTC to show real leadership.