What Does ITU Age-Group Triathlon Qualification Mean?

I noticed a discussion on the Tri Talk forums the other day about the cost of the entry fee for ITU Age-Group World Championship Triathlon in Auckland, which soon became a discussion not only on the cost of entry, but also on what qualification for this event actually means.

People were complaining about the extortionate £285 entry fee, which is the same for the Sprint Distance event as it is for Standard Distance event, and were then saying that the cost of entry prevents many from entering. They were using this a means to devalue the Age-Group Championship and say that  it is only a race between those with the means to pay the entry fees.

In some respects this is true, the £285 entry fee is indeed steep, but the cost of qualifying in the first place isn’t

As someone who has qualified for the ITU Age-Group World Championships and someone who has also paid the £285 entry fee, I thought I’d join the discussion with my thoughts on what it actually means.

First up, £285 is far too much for an entry fee and I don’t really know how they can justify it. Granted it is a week long event with more than just a single sprint distance event so the organisational and logisitical costs will be higher than a smaller event. However, by the same token a larger event such as this should be able to garner greater revenues from sponsors, local councils and such like, so most of the costs could probably be covered without charging extortionate amounts to the Age-Group competitors. I’m not an event organiser though so don’t know all of the financial implications.

As far as I am aware, it is the race organisers in Auckland, not the BTF or the ITU that set the entry fee though and in the grand scheme of things, the cost of the entry fee is still relatively small in comparison to the costs of getting there, accommodation, insurance, kit and all the other costs associated with training for and competing in the event.

As far as whether or not it ‘means anything‘, well, thats a personal thing. For some people, just completing a sprint distance triathlon means something, to others it’s placing highly in a race or completing an Ironman Distance race. For some it’s qualifying for Kona and for the likes of the Brownlees its winning an Olympic Gold. That’s the beauty of Triathlon, it can mean so much to so many people in so many diffrent ways. Just because the goals of the Brownlees are Olympic medals doesn’t mean that the accomplishments of those finishing their first ever Sprint Distance event mean any less.

For me, I first found out about the Age-Group Championships earlier this year having started triathlons last year. Since then I have been working towards qualification. This year, for me, qualifying for the Age-Group World Champs is what ‘meant something’.

As far as it only being for those with the money to do it, then that is true of pretty much everything. Only those with the means and opportunities to do so can do anything in life, and this is true for sport as it with with anything else. Even Usain Bolt can’t be sure that there isn’t someone, somewhere on the face of the Earth who, given the opportunities and the means to do so couldn’t beat him over 100m.

However, back to Age-Group Triathlons and I’d like to reassure those other people who have qualified that they aren’t only competing against people with plenty of money. I shall be competing and I’m pretty sure I don’t class as being particularly well off.

As a family man with a 7 year old son, before our plans to go to New Zealand we hadn’t been on a proper holiday for years, we have to go without many things and make choices in life as to what we do based on our finances. If I earn around £15k a year before tax then I consider that a good year and some of the jobs I do are on minimum wage. We don’t have all the latest gadgets, satellite TV and such like but that is partly a choice we have made.

I don’t have a tri-specific bike or aero wheels and I can’t afford to go on training camps or sometimes even get to the pool for a swim. I do have a perfectly good road bike with standard alloy wheels and a pair of £30 clip on tri-bars. I’m not well-heeled by any stretch of the imagination but I have qualified to compete for Team-GB in the Age-Group World Champs in Auckland and I intend to be there. I certainly won’t be worrying about how well-off the guy in front of me is, I shall just be chasing him down!

We are currently selling anything we can in order to help fund what we hope will be a trip of a lifetime. Morgan is particularly excited about going to New Zealand and is even selling many of his toys to help pay for it as well.

Yes, a certain amount of wealth is needed in order to compete in these things, and yes that does prevent some people from doing it, but that is often a choice that they make themselves. If I can afford to do it then so can most people in the UK and it does annoy me when people say it is only the ‘rich’ who can afford to do such things.

Yes, it is too expensive. Yes you are only competing against those who have also decided they want to compete. And yes, it doesn’t REALLY mean anything. But on the other hand, almost anyone could try to do it if they REALLY wanted to and for those that have decided that competing in the Age-Group World Championships is their aim then it is an achievement and it does mean something to them and those around them when they make the grade. Whatever the cost.

I’m now waiting for the backlash on the Tri Talk forum, but so far my post has been well accepted and it has also given me a chance to point out that I’m seeking sponsorship from anyone who wants to help and as you can hopefully tell from the post above I need all the help I can get. I intend to do Team-GB proud and in the process anyone who supports me.

4 Responses

  1. mum says:

    Well said Al It’s a huge achievement, something to be proud of.

  2. Giles Sharp says:

    Alan, I stumbled across your website after meeting you (or rather racing you) at Bristol. You may recall a guy at the end of the race asking you what time you finished in – having assumed that you had won the age group. Well that guy me and I was interested in your time as I was chasing a time within 115% of yours to try and get a qualifying time. Luckly i was inside the time limit, and as it has all unfolded I am delighted that I have got a roll down slot for Auckland! I echo your thoughts on the subject of Age-Group qualification. I am never going to win, or even challenge for a win, (largely as I only started swimming 12 months ago and as a result tend to lose 5 mins or so on the swim of a sprint tri) but am proud of my achievement. I know that there are many good age-group athletes across Great Britain and there are many reasons why some chose to try and qualify for championships or not – but as you say, if someone REALLY want to do it then they can overcome many hurdles, financial or otherwise.

    Great blog by the way and it looks like you live in a great part of the world – we live by the sea in rural Northumberland and love the lifestyle.

    Look forward to Catching up with you in Auckland.

    • Alan says:

      Hi Giles,
      I remember.

      Glad to hear that you’ve got a roll down slot, I’m looking forward to the race in Auckland. It’s my first time doing anything like this as well. Have you got your Team GB Tri-Suit and booked your flights yet?


  3. Alan Cole says:

    I am commenting on Alan Cole’s note on age group triathlon fees for World champs. I have been in the sport for 20 years – qualified for my first world champs in 2007 in Hamburg – the entry cost then was eye watering but still only around £150. I competed in Auckland too for the sprint and paid the £285 but now for Rotterdam which represents an increase of nearly 100% in 5 years! The Worlds this year 2017 are in Rotterdam and the fee is £310 at today’s rates! OK not such a big rise, but the fees are now at Ironman level! Is it just me or is there anyone else that thinks that the ITU et al are profiteering?

    Let me know – I am getting many supporters to the cause and I will shortly be starting a major campaign. (I wrote to Ian Howard CEO of the BTF on this and he ignored my communication completely!)


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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.