Iron­man pe­nalises pro moth­ers

A lack of fore­thought from the world’s lead­ing triathlon or­gan­iser is forc­ing those re­turn­ing from child­birth to race too of­ten

220 Triathlon Magazine - - Contents -

Ser­ena Williams was eight weeks

preg­nant when she won the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, and if she makes the de­ci­sion to re­turn to pro ten­nis af­ter giv­ing birth, the sport will do all it can to em­brace her. Not merely be­cause of the 35-year-old’s com­mer­cial ap­peal, but be­cause of a pro­tected rank­ing cri­te­ria that takes into ac­count her play­ing sta­tus be­fore ma­ter­nity leave. Williams can take ad­van­tage of the dis­pen­sa­tion as long as she plays a tour­na­ment within 12 months of giv­ing birth.

Con­trast this with the chal­lenge faced by Bri­tish pro triath­lete and new mother Rachel Joyce, who has had to race three Iron­mans in three months in a scram­ble for qual­i­fi­ca­tion points for the world cham­pi­onship in Hawaii.

Joyce may not be a 23-time Grand Slam sin­gles cham­pion, but she’s also no or­di­nary ath­lete. Now 39, she’s ar­guably the best fe­male triath­lete never to have won on the Big Is­land. From 2009 to 2015, Joyce fin­ished sixth, fifth, fourth, 11th, se­cond, third and se­cond. Based in Boul­der, Joyce gave birth to Archie in Septem­ber and in a blog post three months later stated: “I feel like it [be­com­ing a mother] has given me a new lease of en­ergy. Get­ting back to race shape will be a huge chal­lenge but a chal­lenge that ex­cites me.”

But un­like Williams there was no pro­tected rank­ing to fall back on. Iron­man makes no con­ces­sion in its KPR (Kona Points Rank­ing) for triath­letes that have been out through preg­nancy or long-term in­jury, and hav­ing missed Hawaii last year, Joyce was start­ing from scratch.

By June she was in shape to win Iron­man Boul­der and fol­lowed that up with a fourth place in Iron­man Canada, but it still left her out­side the au­to­matic qual­i­fy­ing spots and meant a trip back to Canada to race in Mont-Trem­blant on the fi­nal day of the cut-off to try and se­cure a place. Again vic­to­ri­ous, she will have

“Rachel Joyce has had to race three Iron­mans in three months to qual­ify for Kona”

raced four Iron­man races in five months when it comes to Hawaii. Too many to be healthy?

“A lot of women I was com­pet­ing with for those fi­nal few spots also raced at least three Iron­mans,” she says. “Some ath­letes are re­silient, but I imag­ine the ma­jor­ity will suf­fer an in­jury or long-term fatigue.”

There should be a bet­ter way, and per­haps a new rank­ing sys­tem launched by the Pro­fes­sional Triath­letes Or­gan­i­sa­tion (that un­der­pins se­lec­tion for the in­au­gu­ral Collins Cup next July) has an an­swer. “It gives credit to an ath­lete’s his­tory in the sport pro­vided they show form once they re­turn to rac­ing,” Joyce says.

“I’m not afraid to roll my sleeves up and work hard but I’ve strug­gled that my his­tory in the sport prior to hav­ing Archie means noth­ing,” adds Joyce. “I’ve been on the podium in my three years pre­ced­ing get­ting preg­nant and shown form in win­ning in Boul­der and beat­ing a woman who was on the podium last year in Kona. Yet still I had to race three Iron­mans in 10 weeks to qual­ify.” Iron­man was asked for com­ment.

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