The Rise of Mixed-Gender Sports
Celebrated men’s teams, victorious women’s teams, famous individuals who compete in their sport alone; but how many mixed-gender sporting events or teams can you name?
Whilst multiple racquet sports such as tennis and badminton feature mixed-gender events on a regular basis, the platform for such sports have failed to exist in recent years despite efforts for gender equality within sporting arenas. For so long we have marvelled at the attainments of athletes in categories that are divided by sex, we compare men to men, and women to women, which results in separate titles; the fastest/strongest man in the world and the fastest/strongest woman in the world. For example with Usain Bolt as the fastest man in the world and Elaine Thompson as the fastest woman in the world at the Rio 2016 Olympics - why not combine their talents in a mixed-gender 4x100m relay?
This question was addressed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as they introduced a 4x400m mixed relay race at the 2017 IAAF World Relays competition in the Bahamas, which will subsequently be added to the 2019 Athletics World Championships and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Similarly, mixed relay races were introduced in swimming at the 2014 FINA World Swimming Championships and a 4x100m medley will debut at the Tokyo Olympics, illustrating recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the demand for new sporting disciplines and gender equality.
Alas, even though mixed-gender sports are finally being granted the opportunity to feature in some of the world’s greatest sporting events, there is still a long way to go.
The disparity in pay within tennis continues to be a significant issue, with the 2018 Mixed Doubles champions at Wimbledon taking home £110,000 (to be shared between the pair) whilst the winners in the men’s and women’s singles would both receive £2.25m in prize money. Both to make it appealing to the biggest names in the sport to compete, but more importantly, to make it a viable career for those who wish to pursue it, it is vital that unequal pay is addressed within all mixed-gender sports.
Despite having featured at the 2017 FINA World Championships, mixed synchronized diving events have failed to be added to the lineup of events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, alongside the exclusion of the diving Team Event (where one female and one male athlete from each nation compete together on both the 3m and 10m boards) which continues to take place only at the European and World Championships.
Furthermore, sports which have championed mixed-gender races for a long time, such as the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships which have taken place since 2009, also struggle with low levels of coverage from the mainstream media. This prevents widespread calls for mixed-gender disciplines in other popular sports and so it is key that the media’s attention is caught sooner rather than later
We can remain hopeful that the debut of multiple mixed events at the 2020 Summer Olympics will be that needed call to action and the catalyst for a continued rise in mixed-gender sports.
Image Credit to Richard Giles.