10 Key Takeaways from Messick’s Letter to Pro Triathletes

After an extensive investigation (I checked my email) TRS Triathlon has learned that Andrew Messick, the CEO of Ironman, sent an email last night to his professional triathletes.

Our reporting has found that it was both a celebratory reflection on a good 2014 season and a look ahead to 2016 and beyond. 

Because it’s the off-season and most of the pro triathletes were probably binge drinking last night, I decided to break the email into 10 key points to remember. If you are too hungover to read, simply skim the headers and you will be up to speed.


1. You’ve been less obnoxious on social media.  

“We set out a year ago to enhance professional racing and I believe that we have made progress – prize money is up, we have made our races better, media attention is enhanced, and much of the unproductive public dialog has disappeared.”
“We are happy that this has come to pass and believe that less public chatter will enhance your collective status and serve to continue the evolution towards greater professionalism and collaboration.”

2. We’re increasing prize money 1.89%

“We have finished the 2015 Kona qualifying cycle which was comprised of 100 races and $5.3 million of prize money. For the 2016 season, total prize money will increase to $5.4 million, and we expect you will be able to choose among 100 pro races in 38 countries.”

3. Challenge is terrible.

We understand that this is also a period of change for professionals in long-distance triathlon. Prominent races have been discontinued and other race series have eliminated their entire professional purses in the last year.

4. Don’t count on me for all of your income.

“As all of you know, it is not enough just to be fast. For professionals to thrive in this environment, you must all find ways to be relevant to fans, host communities, sponsors and the media. We have worked hard this year to assist you in this endeavor and feel that we are collectively making progress. Our expectation is that all of our professional athletes must play a vital role in helping to grow the sport.” 


5. 41% of the prize money will be earned at Championship Races

“We have concentrated $2.2 million of the total prize money on the 13 World and Regional Championship races, along with more focus and other resources. Besides adding automatic entry to the respective World Championship events for the winner, we enhanced prize money and increased our media and other promotional support. Our pro fields were stronger in these races and the competition was more compelling. We had live online shows for our Championship races with record viewership.”

6. Kona qualification opportunities will be more concentrated.

“In 2015, the main change to World Championship qualification was the automatic slot for the men’s and women’s winner of our Regional Championship races. The automatic qualifications, and the shifting of points to earlier in the season, allowed more athletes to qualify earlier and, by extension, prepare to be at their best at the World Championship races. That said, a number of August qualifiers (Vesterby, Piampiano, Raelert, Stein) were top 10 finishers in Kona, suggesting that there is a complex calculus to Kona qualification and high performance on the Big Island.”
“Despite our belief that the KPR is working to deliver the best athletes to the starting line of our World Championship races, we feel that changes are required. In short, we increasingly believe that 100 qualifying races is simply too many -that our prize money is spread too thinly across our race portfolio, and our top athletes are not meeting one another enough.” 

7. Quit your crying, ladies.

“Overall, 57 of 346 eligible men and 42 of 205 eligible women were able to race the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona. For the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, 56 of 536 eligible men and 43 of 298 women were able to race in Zell am See-Kaprun.” 
“We had separate starts for pro women at all Championship races for the first time ever. In Kona and Zell am See-Kaprun we also expanded the time gaps for pro women, especially relative to the age-group men, and the feedback that we received has been positive. We continue to work with our operations team and communities to maximize these time gaps each year to provide pro women the cleanest race possible.”

8. PTU: get some members, then we’ll talk.

“The PTU asked us to make membership mandatory for our professional athletes; we declined to do so. While we believe that there are certain advantages to IRONMAN for professional athletes to be collectively represented, we need for the PTU to demonstrate that they in fact substantially represent all of the professionals before we can evaluate them as a representative body.” 

9. Please, do not dope.

“All of our Kona qualified professionals were tested prior to the IRONMAN World Championship. IRONMAN remains focused on tools of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), collecting over 280 blood samples for the hematological ABP YTD. All of the urine samples collected YTD are included in the steroidal passport, and feature targeted analysis for EPO, peptide hormones and GC/C/IRMS screening for advanced steroid detection.”

10. I’m still in charge.

“Many of you are aware that China’s Wanda Group agreed to buy Providence Equity Partners’ shares of IRONMAN earlier this year. Management, including myself, will continue to lead the evolution of IRONMAN, so you should not expect wholesale changes in the direction of the Company. You should expect that there will be a new focus on Asia, particularly in China. The development of our sport in the world’s fastest growing and second largest economy will represent an opportunity for those who choose to pursue it.”
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About the Author

BH is Publisher of TRS Triathlon and host of TRS Radio.