News / Features

The 8% hornets nest

News / Features

A war of words erupted on social networking site facebook on the weekend after a controversial article was posted on sports site The article, seeking to shed some light on the much talked about 8% rule, stirred up a hornets nest when the author asked Ironman legend (and WTC employee) the question as to what she thought of the new 8% ruling and the comments being made about it. (For those still getting up to speed the WTC have instigated a ruling that outlines that those professionals who don’t finish within 8% of the second-placed pro finisher’s time are not eligible for prize money. Extra money not won is then redistributed amongst the 8% finishers.)

In response to the 8% question Paula Newby Fraser was quoted as saying.

"If Catriona (Morrison) is so offended that the men are making less money or that some of the girls didn’t make money, she is free to turn around to third and fourth place and say ‘you know I am so appalled by the system, I am going to give you your money.’ But I don’t see anyone doing that. Belinda Granger can talk a big story about how she would have slowed down in Malaysia after she sprinted to the finish line," added an annoyed Newby-Fraser. "But then I didn’t see her cut a check to Hillary for third place. If they think it is so awful, then why are they not supporting their fellow pros?" (

This comment unleashed a wave of replies through the Belinda Granger’s facebook page. In response Belinda wrote her own view on her facebook page;

"Belinda Granger has never been so pissed off after reading the latest article on Slowtwitch- WTF?- anyone that knows me knows I do not have a ‘sprint finish’ to save myself. To say I ‘sprinted to the finish line’ when they were not even there if totally inappropriate. And to finish- pretty hard to ‘cut a check’ when you have not even been paid yourself!!"

With that out Granger then went on to say;

"I have no problem with articles being written but make sure if you are going to write something- make it the truth. I have no idea where Paula got that from. But the biggest thing that nobody as yet realises is that when I was ‘supposedly’ sprinting for that finish line, redistribution what not the rule. We were told that we would be making the … See Moresame money, ie-$8,500USD. So I was basically sprinting for the same money and making sure Hillary didn’t make any- now why in God’s name would I do that??????? It was not until a few days after the race that I was informed by the WTC that redistribution would be happening. Makes PNF argument completely hollow and untrue. For someone like me who has been in the sport for so long and has looked up to PNF for ever, this is really disappointing"

"We tried to work out the time gaps (in Malaysia). Why would I sprint for the finish? I had no incentive whatsoever to sprint. Remember back then redistribution did not exist. Her argument is simply bogus."

The wave of comments came in from pros and age groupers from all over the world. Some in support some not. We have taken some of the comments from the list. These comments have not been edited:

Luke Mckenzie
"backin ya mina … she lost the plot on that one. How your name got bought up in that article is beyond me?"

Brian Rhodes
"It union time Pro’s were getting screwed!!! This is complete B.S!!!"

Robyn Stanley
"When you do finally get paid BG, it was hard earned (& redistribution wasn’t in at the time). I remember the look on the faces of those pros who missed out on prizemoney and slots …. not what we AGers want to see. You guys are our inspiration & earn every cent. We want to see more of you all, not less (especially in Hawaii). Hope you can all unite and make it happen."

Miles Stewart
"1. I would feel a bit flattered (first time someone has said you have a sprint). 2. You don’t make the rules just race by them. 3. Being a professional is not supposed to be fair or easy, if you can’t make the 8% there is an avenue for you called age group. If i finished 8% behind i woudn’t be asking for a check, maybe a job."

Greg Bennett
"Miles… I couldn’t agree more! If you’re more than 8% back you are NOT a professional athlete and you should get a job and race age group!!! That is exactly what I’ll be doing when my time comes."

Bryan Rhodes
"Greg & Miles
There were really no % rules in Olympic distance race and it’s really not realevant in Draft legal races as everyone would finish within 8%!! Where all the talk is coming from is that W.T.C up and made this rule up of 8% of the Winners time and then to redistribute the money into the same gender at first it was going to not go back into the prize pool!!"

Brian Rhodes
"Mate you know new young pro’s are trying to make a start in long course and these are new rules and can be very unfair.There was never any discussion about it or asking the Pro Athletes that race!!!
Think you guy are missing the point to the Post!!"

Andrea Fisher
"I stepped away from racing for just over 1.5 yr due to surgery and am now coming back in. The changes that have occurred during this time period w’ relation to this topic is pretty shocking. I have always supported the 8% from second place as it does work well without adversly effecting the overall outcome of long distance races. The new rule(s) … See Moreare now causing issues for the winners and as WTC views "the losers". Going from 2nd place on the 8% and then putting any unpaid prize money back into the ENTIRE pro field does exactly what it’s suppose to do (reward top performances and discourage really sub-par performances). Now all we are doing is setting up a scenerio for top finishers to be chastized for not giving back their money to others, discouraging good (quality AND depth) fields at the events, creating more costs for pros who can barely afford to do what they are trying to do, and in this case making an Ironman Winner look bad for her great performance. It’s not right! Really, was the whole system really that "broke" that it needed to be "fixed"? Sometimes you wonder if WTC should really be WTF… I do hope that revisions are made to this ruling, but looks like that won’t happen until later in the year. Good on you Belinda for your win, and nothing should take any part of it away from your day"

Chrissie Wellington
"The issue is also payment of prize money. we wait months and months to be paid. 4 months in the case of Kona. so not only do they squeeze the purse there are no procedures regarding timeframe and method of payment. and dont get me starting on the anti doping…….will someone please come and test me??! after all thats what i am paying the $750 for! Equal days pay for equal days work. unwon money should be redistributed evenly between the prize money winning men and women."

This debate was quite heated and no doubt has started the road to the inevitable unionisation of triathlon professionals. The debate as to pros redistributing their own winnings is absurd when, as Belinda stated, she has not ben paid for her win in Malaysia. The notion though that the professionals are organised enough to form a union or association to look after their own interests is debatable too because of the fractured nature of the professional field. Unlike other sports (eg cycling) they are rarely together and as an individual sport representation is unlikely to be fair or equitable. Does the average professional have the time to get organised for this type of thing? They may need to in order to protect their interests.

This will be Ironman’s biggest testing ground, the battle of the 8%. It will see whether the athletes on the pro start line can get organised or even if they want that level of industrial action to take place. It should be said that not all the pros are against this ruling but it seems the more press that is aimed towards this issue the great the groundswell against it.

The other side to this is that the fields in WTC races may be compromised due to this. Those athletes who may not be at the top of the field will look to races that are not attended by the stars of the sport. This will in turn keep fields across the world to only a handful of professionals. For the sports elite it makes no difference as they will generally finish where they need to be in order to get paid. But for the WTC brand it may have an impact if they cannot secure a raft of big names. In saying that the 70.3 races this season have been well attended. The spin off benefit is that independent races like the Challenge Series and other events such as Wildflower will see plenty show up because they are not aligned so the 8% rule is out the window.

This issue is a long way from dead and the social networking sites are only the beginning of how professionals will now start to vent their frustration. If this is to be the likely scenario and the professionals must now be truly professional are we then going to see the face of the big races like Kona change to professionals only? What other changes are in store for the sport. Let us know your thoughts on this.


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  • whiteline

    It wont be just the pros patronising other events. Given the circus to enter IMA a week back why wouldn’t you look elsewhere? The time has come for competition and WTC will change their tune soon enough. Prizemoney will increase because it will have to, in order to keep up.

  • Ben

    Yes very interesting it takes 4 months to get paid after Kona. What is the reasoning behind that? Probably the same reason they haven’t increased prize money in decades. Also interesting that despite the change this year with all pro’s paying $750 to support the drug testing program the world champion hasn’t even been tested yet. What a joke. But you know what… they do it cause they can. Hopefully the pro’s will provide even more support to the Challenge and Rev3 series races.

  • phil for president

    Phil…I reckon you’d make a great Union boss!!!
    Who’s with me??

    As for comments like Benno’s…if he really made that statement, thats pretty ordinary. He finished more than 8% behind at Clearwater – yet if WTC gave him a cheque he would have taken it without question…otherwise he should be retired going on his last 70.3 then. If he races a 70.3 this year then…what a contradiction.

  • BB

    In my eyes WTC has become greedy. No longer concerned with growing the sport of triathlon, IM and 70.3 events are seen as cash cows and cash cows only. My guess in the the private equity firm that bought WTC last year will squeeze as my money out of it as possible and then sell in 3-5 years. They are not concerned with the livelihood of the athletes, only the profitability of the IM brand. After all, that’s what private equity firms do. So WHY are people so surprised??

    Makes it REALLY hard to want to race IM branded events anymore.

  • Whiteline

    George – spot on mate. It’s like any occupation, pay peanuts and you get them. That’s proabably why, all things being equal, there is only 2 or 3 men and women with a realistic chance of winning Kona

  • Ian

    As a former pro adventure racer (and triathlete since 1984) I fully support the notion for keeping professionals professional. One way to do this is institute a cut off, and the 8% (or 10% or 6%) rule makes total sense to me. Are the cut off times fair for each leg? You betcha. If you’re not good enough to finish the course in X amount of time as an age grouper, what makes pro’s exempt from a cut off on the prize money? As a pro I won enough (over $1M in my career) and only failed to get in the money for being too slow. The 8% rule is exactly that. If your too slow, you don’t get paid.

  • George Esahak-Gage

    The answer is more prize money (not less) for the pros at Ironman races, going 10 deep for men and women, and no stuff like the 8% rule. Greater prize money always enhances the image of an event to the general public (examples: golf, tennis, auto racing, even bowling!). Greater prize money also, over time, tends to attract more good athletes and, eventually, that leads to tighter competition. As long as you have a sport that only rewards "a few top performers", you will only ever get "a few top performers".
    And finally, how sad that our current Ironman best (like Chrissie) have to wait weeks or more to get paid!