Mixed-gender events aren’t new to the Olympic program, but there will be a whole lot more of them at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Double the amount there were in Rio just three years, ago, as a matter of fact.
With nine new mixed-gender events in seven different sports, the total is up to 18. It’s all part of the International Olympic Committee’s quest to not only attract new and younger viewers by adding such sports as surfing and skateboarding but also to balance out the number of opportunities for women and men at the Games. All the athletes for the mixed-gender events will come from the individual pool of qualified athletes.
In 2016, mixed-gender competition existed in badminton (mixed doubles, added in 1996), equestrian (individual and team events in all three disciplines have been mixed since the 1960s), sailing (including the mixed Nacra 17 class added in 2016) and tennis (mixed doubles returned to the program in 2012 after an 88-year absence).
Next year will see men and women competing together in perennial favorites such as swimming and track and field as well as in archery, judo, shooting, table tennis and triathlon.
With the 2020 Opening Ceremony just about one year away, here’s a look at the new mixed-gender events that will be added in Tokyo:
Added to the world championship schedule in 2011 and contested in three Youth Olympic Games, mixed team features one man and one woman going head to head the same way the men’s and women’s recurve teams compete. South Korea will likely be the country to beat in 2020. They’ve won every world championship since mixed team was added, making it five in a row this summer. The U.S. won the silver medal at the 2013 world championships. Olympic medalist Brady Ellison and Casey Kaufhold took silver at the first world cup stop this year, and are among those who could challenge for the first Olympic hardware in the new event. Ellison has also medaled on the world cup stage with Olympians Khatuna Lorig and Mackenzie Brown.
The mixed team event will feature three male judokas (73 kg., 90 kg. +90 kg.) and three female judokas (57 kg., 70 kg, +70 kg.) in a quarterfinal repechage format with the top four teams being seeded. The U.S. did not field a mixed team at the 2018 World Judo Championships, which Japan won by beating France, nor did any judoka compete in the event at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Judo has seven weight categories per gender at the Olympic Games and any nation that qualifies judokas that fit within the categories being used for the mixed team event can compete (i.e. the U.S. could enter a women’s 48 kg. judoka in the 57 kg. category for mixed team).
There are a total of three new mixed events in shooting: mixed team trap, mixed team air rifle and mixed team air pistol. All involve one man and one woman competing for a combined score. Mixed team trap made its world championship debut in 2017 and right away the U.S. staked its claim as a team to beat. Ashley Carroll and Derek Haldeman won the bronze medal, and in 2019 again advanced to the bronze-medal match at the world championships. Corey Cogdell-Unrein and Casey Wallace along with Kayle Browning and Will Hinton are also among those who’ve medaled for the U.S. at various world cup stops. Some of the top U.S. pairings in mixed team air rifle have included Dempster Christenson and Mindy Miles, who won gold at the 2018 Championships of the Americas, and Lucas Kozeniesky and Sarah Beard, who won bronze at the same competition. Ali Weisz and Tim Sherry will compete together in the upcoming Pan American Games along with Miles and Kozeniesky. In mixed team pistol, Nick Mowrer and Alexis Lagan have competed together, as have Sandra Uptagrafft and James Hall. Miglena Todorova and Mowrer will compete together at Pan Ams.
The new mixed event in swimming is the 4x100-meter mixed medley. The U.S. has long been dominant in 400-meter medleys, and if there’s any of the new mixed additions in which Team USA should certainly be expected to bring home a medal it’s this one, featuring two men and two women. The U.S. is so deep that at the 2017 world championships they used two completely different teams in the prelims and the final, and not only took first both times but also broke the world record both times.
Mixed team doubles has been contested at the World Table Tennis Championships for nearly 100 years, and now it makes its debut on the Olympic stage. China is the runaway leader in the sport at the Olympic level with a total of 53 medals, including 28 gold. The U.S. is still looking for its first Olympic medal in table tennis, but Yue Wu and Kanak Jha did advance to the final at the 2018 Pan American Table Tennis Championships, where they won silver. Jha and Lily Zhang have both medaled at the Youth Olympic level – the only U.S. athletes to earn Olympic or Youth Olympic medals – and could also make a strong team.
Track and Field
New in 2020 will be the 4x400-meter mixed team event. Also featuring two men and two women, each running one lap, the U.S. won the silver medal in this event when it debuted at the 2017 IAAF World Relays. They did one better at this year’s event when My’Lik Kerley, Joanna Atkins, Jasmine Blocker and Dontavius Wright took the gold medal in Yokohama, Japan. In all, this event should be another strong one for the U.S. in 2020. The event will be contested at this year’s world championships for the first time.
Triathlon’s mixed team relay is another event in which the U.S. could reasonably expect to pick up a medal. Four members compete, alternating woman-man-woman-man, with each one completing a super-sprint triathlon consisting of a 300-meter swim, 7-kilometer bike and 1.7K run with the fastest combined time winning. The ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships were held for the first time in 2009, and it has since been included in the Youth Olympic Games and in 2018 the ITU’s Mixed Relay World Series was born. The U.S. team finished ninth at the world championships this year but took gold in 2016, silver in 2017 and bronze in 2018 with world series podium finishes at each of the three 2018 stops and two of the four 2019 stops to date.