This follows on from the earlier Ironman Pro License (I), but not part (II), or part (III), because they don't exist yet.

Part (III) is about the winners and losers of the Pro License, but after reading this on, I think it also worth examining the WTC's logic behind the license - will it infact improve the quality of the Pro racing field at Championship events?

Ironman Pro License Part (IV) - Will it improve the quality of Triathlon?

Firstly, I think it is necessary to define a few terms;
- Improve - fairly obvious I hope, but over what time frame, and I think this is crucial.
- Quality - I am going to take it to mean average finish time of the field (at least for the WTC definition to work)
- Standard - Leading finish times

So I am going to discuss whether there will infact be an improvement in average finish time over the short and long term;

Short Term

In the short term the answer is yes. At Championship events, for which there is a tougher qualification standard (the need to be within 5% of the finish time of the winner at qualification races) there should be a higher average finish time. This is common sense, take away the participants in the slower half of any race and the average finish time will improve.

However by cutting the slower half of the field, the actual finish times will not improve. The fact that the average will improve is nothing more than a manipulation of the numbers.

The actual standard of performance does not have to improve (infact it could get worse) by this method of determining quality. All is that is happening is a shift in the sample frame. For instance, if I apply the selection criteria to the 2008 race, the average finish time will improve without the weaker athletes, BUT it hasn't done anything to actual improve the performances of the athletes still in the race - why would it? So whilst in the short term it may seem like the quality has improved (the average finish time will be faster), this is not because the standard has improved.

Long Term

If you want to improve the standard something, anything - supermarkets, airlines need competition. Competition is brought about by an increase in the number of athletes participating not by reducing the number.

If you want to improve the Pro standard then you need to make it more accessible to athletes. I am not saying open to all, but the races need to provide the support for people to bridge the gap between aspiring pro and pro. If you have not read the xtri editorial yet, now is a good place to squeeze it up until a few days ago, the new rules meant that there was no reallocation of undistributed prize money to those athletes who had met the 8% standard. Instead this money went to the WTC Christmas party...

This rule only further increases the gap between the aspiring and full fledged professional and highlights the greed of the WTC. If the aspiring pro can not get some pocket money along the way then the "second tier" pro will forever be stuck in a part time job, unable to commit sufficient hours to training and recovery to bridge the gulf [Disclaimer: my personal work/training balance is pretty good right now, this is an observation, not a complaint]. It should be said there has been a climb down, and previously undistributed prize money will now be reallocated. However, my point still remains valid for pros who finish outside 8% still remains valid. And to be honest, the fact we are talking about fighting to maintain prize money is a little ridiculous in a sport that has not seen an increase in prize money in such a long time?

Back to my original point....will this improve the long term, year on year, quality of races? No, I believe it will have the opposite effect. By ring fencing the athletes who are supporting themselves through their professional earnings, and washing over the stepping stones of athletes trying to make the jump, then the current ranks of professionals can only be challenged by those of exceptional ability who bridge the gap quickly (Mr Graves), or those who are independently wealthy.

Therefore, thanks to the current rules, the top professionals of today will receive fewer challenges than before. For these reasons I do not think it unreasonable to assert that over time the standard of performances will decrease, or at the very least the rate of improvement will decrease, as the current succesful professionals will remain in the sport for a longer period of time.

Therefore the current WTC rules will infact lead to a reduction in the quality and standard of professional fields over time. Good one. Comments