How to Qualify for Kona in 2024

Joshua Gordon, PhD


Driven by an iron will and endless miles, triathletes around the world fight for every coveted Kona slot. These golden tickets, scattered across qualifying events, hold the key to the ultimate test – the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. In this blog let's crack the code on qualifying for the 2024 Men’s Ironman World Championship. This is your insider's guide to navigating the maze of qualifying races, figuring out where you stand the best (and worst) chance of landing that coveted Kona slot.



IRONMAN Frankfurt, Texas, and Cairns have the highest number of 2024 Male Kona slots, but your odds are best at IRONMAN Cairns, Philippines, and New Zealand due to a more favorable slot-to-participant ratio. NOTE: your age group matters—check the detailed breakdown below to assess your specific qualification chances for the 2024 Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii.


Click here for Age Group specific analysis


With qualifying only happening every two years now, the pressure's on! But don't sweat it, I've got your back. I’ll be crunching numbers through all age groups, using both past data and Ironman's official 2024 slot allocations. Think of it as a two-pronged attack: one, we'll count how many slots each race throws up, and two, we'll check how many people are trying to snatch them (think slot-to-participant ratio, like a competition density meter). This way, we can compare apples to apples across different races and age groups, no matter how crowded the starting line.


For each age group, I'll rank the races by your "Kona-ness": how likely you are to snag a slot based on all that data. I'll show you the races with the most slots, aka the golden tickets, and on the flip side, highlight the battlegrounds where your odds are slimmer than a wet swimsuit.


But this isn't just about numbers. I'll break down what it all means for your Kona game plan. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie toeing the starting line, this blog will give you the intel you need to make strategic choices, backed by hard stats. So buckle up, fellow triathletes, let's demystify the madness and plot your course to Kona!


2024 Situation:


Several male athletes had chosen to postpone their qualification for the Kona Ironman World Championship from 2023 to 2024 before the announcement of the Nice World Championship location. This decision, coupled with previous deferments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of available age-group qualifying spots for Kona in the remaining races of 2023 and the early races of 2024. It is estimated that there are about 50% fewer spots for male competitors. However, this scenario also implies that many top competitors have already secured their places for the event. Consequently, even though there are fewer qualifying spots, the level of competition might be somewhat reduced, particularly from the most elite athletes in each age group.


Data Summary:


  •  In 2024, 17 races will offer qualification slots for the Mens Kona Ironman World Championship. 

  •  For a comprehensive list of slot allocations, visit: Ironman World Championship Nice Slot Allocation 2024.

  • The table below summarizes the slot allocations for convenience 

  • A quick review indicates that the majority of slots (55 each) are concentrated in three main events:

    • IRONMAN Texas - The Americas Championship

    • IRONMAN European Championship Frankfurt

    • IRONMAN Cairns

  • Across the races listed below, a total of 565 slots are available, spanning from March 2, 2024, to August 18, 2024.

Kona slots 2024


Male Finisher Data

To estimate the slot allocation, we utilized a dataset covering the years 2015 to 2023. This dataset includes:

  • A total of 351,056 male finisher times.

  • Participation across 300 events.

  • Approximately 213,279 unique male finishers. Note: This figure represents a lower bound due to the potential for identical names.

  • The top contributing countries were the USA, Great Britain, France, and Germany.


country finishers

After excluding data from 2015 (due to partial year records), as well as 2020 and 2021 (the Covid-19 pandemic years), and focusing specifically on the 17 races that will offer male Kona slots in 2024, the refined dataset for male finishers is detailed in the table below (sorted low to high).


historical finisher data

Among the races offering male Kona slots in 2024, IRONMAN Philippines emerges as the least popular, averaging 482 male finishers per year. IRONMAN New Zealand follows closely with an average of only 699 male finishers annually. Conversely, the IRONMAN European Championship Frankfurt leads in popularity, attracting an average of 1972 male finishers per year, with IRONMAN Austria in a close second, averaging 1952 finishers annually.


Overview Analysis: Slot Availability Versus Historical Finisher Data


In this section, we present a high-level analysis that focuses solely on the ratio of available slots to participants, setting aside age group considerations. The table below illustrates the most favorable slot-to-participant ratios based on historical data:

overall slot ratio

This fundamental analysis reveals that the most favorable races for Kona 2024 qualification are IRONMAN Cairns, IRONMAN Philippines, and IRONMAN New Zealand. Each offers a slot-to-participant ratio greater than 0.04, equating to more than a 1 in 25 chance of securing a slot, based on average participant numbers per event. It's important to note that these figures are point estimates derived from historical data and actual participant numbers may vary.


Graphical Analysis


Rather than sifting through complex tables and raw numbers, graphical representations offer a more intuitive and accessible way to comprehend data. They distill the essence of the statistics into visual formats that can be more quickly and easily understood.


Below, The left graph titled "Kona Slots by Event 2024" displays the total number of qualification slots available for each event. The right graph, titled "Estimated Overall Kona Slot-to-Participant Ratio," presents a calculated ratio of slots to participants for each event, providing a measure of how likely an athlete is to secure a Kona slot based on historical participation rates.


From these charts, it's evident that some events offer a higher number of slots, which might suggest a better chance to qualify. However, the right graph is particularly insightful as it accounts for the number of participants as well, giving a more nuanced view of your chances. For example, while the IRONMAN in Frankfurt offers a large number of slots, the slot-to-participant ratio is lower compared to Cairns, Philippines, and New Zealand, indicating a tougher competition due to higher participant numbers. In contrast, Cairns, Philippines, and New Zealand show a higher slot-to-participant ratio, suggesting that your chances of qualifying at these events are statistically better.


For athletes charting their course to the Kona World Championship, this analysis provides a crucial advantage. It goes beyond highlighting races with the most slots, pinpointing those where history reveals a more favorable chance of securing one. This serves as a vital reminder: while the number of slots is significant, the pool of competitors striving for them plays an equally critical role in identifying the most opportune races for qualification.


Kona Slots by Race

Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024


Age Group Analysis

The general analysis provides valuable insights at a glance, but for athletes seeking a more tailored understanding of their qualification prospects, I suggest delving into the data specific to your age group for a detailed evaluation.


The analysis section utilizes historical data to provide a refined estimate of Kona slot distributions across age groups. For instance, let's examine the case of Ironman Texas shown in the table below. Here's a breakdown of the finishers by age group: 14.7% fall within the M35-39 bracket, and 19.6% are within the M40-45 category. These percentages are critical in projecting the allocation of slots.

IMTX Age Distribution


M35-39 Example


In the provided Age Group chart, a new element—the error bar—adds a layer of depth to our understanding. The central data point (black dot) on both charts represents the estimated slot allocation for each age group after distributing one guaranteed slot per group. In the case of Ironman Texas, this leaves 42 slots available (55 total minus 13 guaranteed slots - 1 for each age group) to be apportioned among the age groups based on their historical finisher proportions. For the M35-39 group, this calculation would be 14.7% of 42 slots, resulting in an additional 6.174 slots, summed up with the guaranteed slot to 7.174 slots. This figure is denoted by the black dot on the left graph.


The error bars symbolize the range within which the actual number of slots is likely to fall—between 7 and 8 for the M35-39 category, with 7.174 being the expected number. On the right chart, the error bar mirrors this approach, depicting the potential fluctuation in the slot-to-participant ratio. The dot indicates the most probable ratio based on the expected number of slots, while the error bar reflects the variance if either 7 or 8 slots were to be allocated.


This graphical representation not only offers precise slot estimations but also visually communicates the possible variations, providing a clearer and more comprehensive view of the qualifying landscape for athletes in the M35 category.


M35 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024

M35-39 Estimated Kona Slots 2024


Here's how to analyze each each plot:


  • Left Plot - Estimated Kona Slots by Event for 2024 Total

    • This plot shows the estimated number of Kona slots available for the age group across various events.

    • The horizontal axis represents the number of Kona slots for this age group

    • The events are listed on the vertical axis, including locations like Vitoria-Gasteiz, Texas, Switzerland, etc.

    • Each bar starts at zero on the left and extends to the right to indicate the number of slots. The length of the bar represents the estimated total number of slots for that particular event

  • Right Plot - Estimated Kona Slots by Event 2024 Normalized by Avg Number of Participants

    • This plot adjusts the number of Kona slots by the average number of participants in the age group historically to give a normalized view of slot distribution.

    • The horizontal axis now represents the Kona slot-to-participant ratio (bigger means a better chance for you!)

    • This normalized perspective allows for comparison of how many slots are available per participant, which is a fairer way to evaluate the chance of qualifying across different events. An event with a higher ratio offers a better chance of qualification per participant.


Other Considerations


  • The Rolldown: Like a poker player eyeing a late hand, be there for the rolldown ceremony. Top qualifiers sometimes fold, opening the door for unexpected last-minute grabs.

  • Fund Your Dreams: Kona isn't just about sweat, it's about cash. Training, travel, gear, entry fees - it all adds up. Treat your finances like a second training plan. Secured funds unlock your race day freedom.

  • Time it Right: Forget the early bird. Go for later season races. By then, big guns have snagged their Kona tickets, thinning the field and boosting your chances. Remember, you're aiming for leftover slots, not leftover pie.

  • Balance Beyond the Finish Line: Kona's a beast that devours not just miles, but mental well-being and social life. Prioritize support systems and life balance. A happy, stable athlete is a Kona-ready athlete.

Remember, stats are just the starting point. Your Kona path demands adaptability, financial smarts, strategic timing, and life harmony. Master these, and watch your journey to the World Championship unfold, not just as a race, but as a meticulously planned triumph.

Never done a 140.6 and not sure how you will perform?  Check out my blog on estimating your finishing time from a 70.3 here: 

Want to get the most of your training by nailing your pre race nutrition, check out my blog on carb loading for Ironmans here:


Jump to your age group here:





M18 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024







M30 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M40 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M45 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M50 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M55 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M60 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M65 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M70 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M75 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024




M80 Kona Slots by Ironman Event 2024