PTO reveals all-new athlete ranking system

There are some BIG changes to the PTO's athlete ranking system. Here's what you need to know...

Anne Haug wins at the Collins Cup

The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) has today announced its all-new athlete World Ranking System (WRS).


The changes come following feedback from athletes, fans and media, with the organisation saying the updates will “bring greater clarity, credibility and unity to the sport’s rankings”.

So what’s changed?

How the original PTO ranking system worked

The original system relied on something called an ‘Estimated Ideal Time’ (EIT). That would be based on analysis of past results, with this ideal time deemed to reflect a solid performance by a high-ranked athlete.

Other factors are then taken into consideration post-race, including weather and water conditions, resulting in an ‘Adjusted Ideal Time’ (AIT).

If an athlete beats the AIT they’d receive 100 points. If they go faster, they’d get more, but if they’d go slower, they’d lose some.

An athlete’s three best race scores would then be taken and averaged out to decide their overall world ranking points.

The new PTO ranking system explained

As we’ve just touched on, the original system was designed around race performance regardless of who else was in the field or where the athlete was racing. But that’s about to change.

The new system has been worked on by the Athlete Rankings Committee, which includes the likes of Brit Ruth Astle, Antony Costes (FRA), Renee Kiley (AUS), Jackson Laundry (USA) and Danielle Lewis (USA).

It’s designed to meet four key principles: transparency, objectivity, simplicity and fairness. As a result, the following points will now be in effect going forward:

  • A tiering system for races
  • Rewarding race positions directly
  • Consideration of the strength of the field at each event
  • Ensuring exceptional performances are rewarded based on finishing times compared to other athletes in the same race

What are the new tiers?

Taylor Knibb works hard on the bike leg of the PTO US Open (Credit: James Mitchell/PTO)

There will be five race tiers (Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze), with races falling into each one based on available prize money, plus other criteria such as prestige, media exposure and broadcast coverage.

The PTO’s announcement says: “Each tier has base points, with the first finisher being awarded the full base points and further positions dropping off in points from there.

“This helps professional athletes to plan their season and judge potential scores ahead of time whilst also offering developing athletes a clearer pathway to increase their ranking at lower-tier competitions.

“Different tiers also have different point drop-offs between finishing positions – reflective of each tier’s relative weightings of prestige and competitiveness. These tier position points make up 40% of the overall PTO WRS scoring calculation.”

The PTO has already outlined which events will fall into which tier, and it makes for interesting reading.

Most notable is that a lot of Ironman’s non-championship races will fall into the fourth-tier Silver category, where a lower number of base points are available (80 vs the 100 available in the Diamond tier).

So what’s in the Diamond tier? That’d be all the PTO events, plus the Ironman World Championship.

It means that athletes hoping to top the rankings come the end of the year will stand a better chance of doing so by racing PTO events rather than Ironman events.

You can see the full breakdown of tiers and their races below:


Prize money required: Over $500,000
Example races: PTO Tour races, Collins Cup, Ironman World Championship
Drop off % for finishing positions: 2%


Prize money required: $350,000-500,000
Example races: Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Challenge Roth, World Triathlon Long Distance World Championship
Drop off % for finishing positions: 2%


Prize money required: $75,000-350,00 (middle-distance events); $150,000-350,000 (long-distance events)
Example races: Most Ironman and Ironman 70.3 regional championships, Challenge Family The Championship, Clash Daytona
Drop off % for finishing positions: 5%


Prize money required: $25,000-75,000 (middle-distance events); $50,000-150,000 (long-distance events)
Example races: Most Challenge Family events, many Ironman 70.3 and Ironman races, Clash Miami and other independent races
Drop off % for finishing positions: 8%


Prize money required: $10,000-25,000 (middle-distance events); $10,000-50,000 (full-distance events)
Example races: Some Challenge Family events, smaller independent races
Drop off % for finishing positions: 11%

How does the strength of the field affect things?

Team Europe’s Magnus Ditlev runs out of T1 at the Collins Cup (Credit: PTO)

This is another new concept to come into the ranking system. Going forward, the stronger the field, the more points will be on offer.

The PTO will be determining this by looking at the average PTO world ranking points of the top five starters at a race.

By offering more points to athletes facing stronger fields, the PTO is hoping we’ll see more of the world’s best battling each other out on the course.

Strength of field (SOF) will contribute 30% of the overall PTO WRS scoring calculation.

What’s the final metric being used by the system?

The PTO says that an athlete’s finishing time will still play a key role in the new system. They’re not kidding – it’s actually going to be worth 30% of the overall scoring calculation.

However, unlike before, where finishing times were judged against a theoretical best time (as explained above), it’s now going to be judged against other athletes competing in the race.

To do so, the strength of the field will be combined with the average finishing times at the front of the race (with the total number of times dependent on the number of finishers) to determine a baseline time.

An athlete that dominates and wins the race will win more points, while those lagging behind will get fewer.

How do the bonuses work?

Athletes that mainly race long-distance events will get a 5% increase on their best full-distance score, but this only applies to events that are in the Gold tier or below.

The reason for this is that middle-distance athletes tend to race more events per season, giving them more opportunities to secure better scores.

The bonus is also there to recognise that there are more middle-distance events in the top two tiers, thus offering more points.

What events are eligible in this new system?

The system operates on a 52-week rolling period and uses the same eligibility criteria as before for races. That means races must be longer than the Olympic distance to count toward the rankings, but they must also have over $10,000 of prize money up for grabs and be non-drafting.

To be eligible, each race must also offer the same value prize purse for both male and female athletes.


Top image credit: Darren Wheeler/PTO