Age-Group Worlds Qualifying


This has been my main goal for the best part of a year now, so it feels amazing to achieve something that was just an intangible goal 12 months ago. I will upload a race report for the qualifying race as soon as I get a chance.

As I have had to explain the age-group world championships qualification process so many times in recent weeks, I thought it may also be useful to summarise it so that I can point people here, rather than trying to explain while people drift off. So…

  • There are 20 GB slots in each 5 year age band (25-29 for me, the same as in Masters swimming) up for grabs each year.  To get one of these you must register your intent to qualify with British Triathlon, then enter 1 or more of 3 qualification races. This year these are held in Eton, Llandudno, and Redcar. Qualifying races understandably tend to attract faster competition than your typical triathlon.
  • The fastest 4 people at each race in each age group that are registered to qualify get an automatic qualification place (labelled Q1-Q4). If someone comes 6th in their age at a qualifying race, but 2 people have not registered to qualify (they may have just wanted to race some faster competition), then that 6th person would be Q4. This is what happened for me at Llandudno.
  • Everyone else is given a percentage score based on the age-group winners time. This is calculated as your time in seconds, divided by the winners time in seconds, multiplied by 100. This is intended to standardise each course, as errors in course measurement, elevation profile, weather etc. could all affect results and make a simple qualifying time unfair across different races. What this also means is that if the winner of your age group is relatively slow, your percentage will be lower (and therefore your chance of qualifying will be better). This also means a very fast person winning your age can make everyone else’s percentage higher, and therefore reduce chance of qualifying.
  • To be considered for a world championships, you must finish within 115% of the winners time. In reality, depending on the location of the championship and associated cost/difficulty of getting there, you will probably need to achieve somewhere around 106-107% or better in order to be in with a chance of qualifying. My result at Eton was 108.7%, which isn’t likely to be quick enough. My result at Llanduno was around 103%, so even without the automatic qualification I would have been much more likely to qualify.
  • The remaining 8 slots in each age group are given out first to people who have pre-qualified (must finish top 15 in their age out of everyone and top 3 Brits at last years world championships). Remaining “rolldown” slots are then given to the people with the lowest percentages across all 3 qualifying races.
  • Confused yet? Good.

After some blank, vacant stares, “Does this mean you will be racing with the Brownlee brothers soon?” is usually the first question that gets asked after trying to explain this process to people. The short answer is a resounding “No”.

An approximate summary of the many levels of racing in the UK is given in the order below. This is my simplification of things, and only applies to sprint (750m/20km/5km) and olympic/standard (1500m/40km/10km) distance racing. Middle and Iron distance racing have a separate system.

  • Typical small/medium UK triathlon, e.g. Winchester triathlon. This is the bread-and-butter of the triathlon scene in the UK, and there could be a mix of abilities anywhere from first timers to local elites out for a training race. Results will be divided into the 5 year age-group bands.
  • Large open UK triathlon, e.g. London triathlon, Blenheim Palace, Windsor etc. Typically will have a significant number of first timers (60% at Blenheim), but the faster competitors are sometimes a higher standard than local races simply because of the sheer number of entrants.
  • Age-group european/world qualifiers, British and English championships. This is the faster end of amateur racing in the UK, and will attract people from all over the country.
  • Age group World/European championships. These are some of the best amateur racers in the world, but the field will  depend on where the championships are held and the cost of getting there etc.
  • Domestic elite races. Many larger triathlons in the UK (Blenheim, London, Cardiff) will also include a separate wave of “elite” triathletes. Age doesn’t really matter in these races, and results are given as “overall” rather than separated by age. This will be comprised of the faster age-group racers from european/worlds qualifier level, juniors on the performance/talent pathway (trying to make it as pro’s), and those elites racing at the top level of the sport who have chosen to race at a domestic race (see the Ali Brownlee and Gordon Benson at Blenheim elite race in 2016 as an example. Blenheim also doubles as the UK elite sprint distance championship race).
  • European Cup racing – The fastest racers on the domestic elite scene will be selected by British triathlon to race this series of races that take place around Europe.
  • World Cup racing – One step above the european cup races, taking place across the world. Some of the best elites in the world race this series. People racing this level for GB are usually those on the Olympic podium potential programme, and are some of the best in the world. These people are also likely to be entered into the European Elite championships race, which will usually happen alongside the age-group european championships races (in a separate wave) . This one-off elite championship race is distinct from the elite European cup racing series.
  • World Series racing – This is the level that you will typically find the Brownlees dominating. This is the highest level of triathlon racing outside of the Olympics. Points are awarded for position throughout the series, which has a Grand Final race with double points as the last race of the year. This grand final is run alongside the age-group world championships races, often on the same course on a different day. For example, the grand final was held in Cozumel, Mexico last year. Clips of Ali carrying Jonny across the finish line of this race went viral last year. But there were also several thousand age-group athletes racing the sprint and olympic distance world championships races separately over the course of the week.

So you can see the Brownlee’s are still leagues above the highest level I will ever reach. However, I will get to see them racing the elite World Series Grand Final in Rotterdam the day before I race at the age-group world championships, which should be pretty inspiring. If you have never watched a world series race, it is well worth following the action with the BBC coverage:

All of that being said, I am super excited to be racing the age-group worlds. It will be my toughest test yet, and whilst I don’t have any real performance expectations of myself, I am excited to race some of the world’s best amateurs and see how I stack up.



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