As last year’s look at the demographic breakdown of the Ironman World Championship proved surprisingly popular I’m returning for a 2019 update. I’ve updated the charts to include this year’s race and to see how it compares with the previous 14 years in Hawaii. There are a lot of charts ahead, all focussed on the composition of the age group field in Kona.
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice in the chart above is that for the first time since 2011 the number of competitors in Hawaii fell on the previous year. It’s a small change, but there was no growth in competitor numbers this year. There was a small decrease in numbers for both genders in 2019.
The ratio of the genders over the last 15 years has been quite stable. Women make up between 26-30% of the field. The peak of 30% occurred in 2016, this year that had dropped down to around 27%. For comparison, world wide, women make up about 20% of competitor numbers.
Athletes qualify by age group so the ratios of age groups in Kona give some indication towards the respective size of each division within Ironman. Charts are divided by gender and age groups over 80 are excluded to maintain readability.
The small contraction in numbers at Hawaii this year appears to have come from the under 40s and over 60s. There’s an increase in numbers between 40 and 60 though, with 50-60 year olds seeing the largest change.
Almost 70% of the male field is now over 40 years old. The number has sat around 65% for the previous 5 years, but if we look back to 2005 the figure was nearer 50%. Basically, Ironman continues to see it’s growth in age groups over 40 years old.
For the women’s age groups there isn’t such a clearly defined trend. the reduction in numbers is spread more evenly over the age groups with one or two seeing small increases in numbers.
Looking at the women’s age groups as percentages we see that the general trend is similar to the men: increasing numbers in the 40-plus divisions. Moving from 48% in 2005 through to 63% in 2019. This isn’t as evenly spread across those age groups, for example F40-44 retracted slightly this year.
The pattern of nationalities racing in Kona reflects the spread of qualifiers around the world. Fifteen years ago qualifiers were mainly in the US or Europe and so qualifiers were more likely to originate there. Now races are more widely spread and numbers have increased outside of the US and Europe.
The largest growth of Ironman over the last 15 years has come from the increase in athletes outside the ten largest nationalities. With this year’s contraction of numbers it’s this ‘Other’ category that has contracted most.
The percentage view point how’s this. There’s roughly a 2% fall in ‘Other’ nationalities in Kona this year. Some nations – the US, German and the UK in particular saw an increase in numbers this year.
For completeness the chart above shows all the nationalities that make up the ‘Other’ category. Ranging from those that are just outside the ten largest down to those that have a single athlete present.
The diversity of nationalities racing is reflected in the diversity of age group winners in Kona. I’ve grouped any nationalities that didn’t claim a place this year into an ‘Other’ category for clarity. So we see a few pattens around the current winner nationalities. US winners declined again, but the UK saw a big increase. There were a number of winners from nations that hadn’t previously had an age group winner in Kona.
The percentage format of this chart is perhaps a little easier to read.
By broadening the chart out to consider the top ten within each age group we see a more stable picture. Numbers start to align with the overall competitor numbers in Hawaii. There are shifts for some nationalities – the US sees a drop in podium numbers again this year.
Again the percentage chart view may offer a slightly clearer view. That’s at least until I develop a Bump Chart version of this data.
The final, large chart looks at what percentage of athletes make the podium from each nationality. For some regulars on the Koan podium – the US, Germany, Australia for example – this was a low year. Others have been more consistent in recent years. China stands out with a third of its competitors making the podium. Since the Chinese 70.3s provide Kona slot numbers appear to have risen.
This years race didn’t offer huge changes to Kona’s demographics. The race didn’t grow, but the age demographics still shifted meaning an increase in the over-40s and effectively a drop in the under 40s. Competitor nationalities and those that perform at the top of the race continue the diverse trend of the last 5-10 years.