Mixed events enrich the Winter Games programme

As at the Summer Games Tokyo 2020, a large number of the new events on the programme of the next winter edition, in Beijing in 2022, are mixed. After biathlon, Alpine skiing, figure skating and curling, there will soon be exciting competitions featuring mixed teams in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, short-track speed skating and ski jumping!

Picture by 2018 Getty Images

The first-ever female Olympic champion in a mixed event was Hélène de Pourtalès, who was competing for Switzerland in the 1-2 ton sailing class at the 1900 Games in Paris. She won the gold medal with her husband, Hermann, and his nephew, Bernard. There was also a mixed doubles tennis event in Paris. After that, apart from the pairs figure skating event on the programme of the first Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924, for a long time there was only one truly mixed Olympic sport: equestrian. Since the 1950s, male and female riders have been competing against one another in all the disciplines of this sport, in individual and team jumping, dressage and eventing.

But things are changing now. In Tokyo in 2020, there will be new mixed events: 4x400m in athletics, 4x100m in swimming, team events in judo and archery, a triathlon relay, mixed doubles table tennis and three team competitions in shooting (air pistol, air rifle and trap).

But let’s take a look at the Winter Games Beijing 2022: after biathlon and figure skating (a mixed relay for the former and a team event for the latter in Sochi in 2014), Alpine skiing and curling (team parallel slalom and mixed doubles in PyeongChang in 2018), things will be speeding up still further in two years’ time! In snowboarding, freestyle skiing, short-track speed skating and ski jumping, most of the new events on the programme of the 24th Olympic Winter Games are mixed. Let’s take a closer look…

Mixed sports
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Mixed team snowboard cross

This is contested by teams of two. In the final, the men go first. As soon as they get to the bottom, the gates open so their female team mates can begin, in the same order that the men crossed the finish line. The first mixed team snowboard cross competition at the FIS World Championships was at Solitude Mountain (Utah, USA) on 3 February 2019: America’s Mick Dierdorff finished fourth and last in his run, handing over to Lindsey Jacobellis (a four-time Olympian since the 2006 Games in Turin, where she won a silver medal), who went on to achieve a historic victory ahead of Italian duo Omar Visintin and Michela Moioli (Olympic champion in 2018), and Germany’s Paul Berg and Hanna Ihedioha. “It just makes me feel great that I’m still in the mix, that I’m still pushing the level of women’s snowboard cross, and hoping to develop the next generation of girls,” Lindsey Jacobellis explained.

Freestyle skiing – mixed team aerials

Each team consists of three athletes. The rule is that there must be at least one man and one woman, so teams can consist of two women and one man, or vice-versa. And the team competition in this discipline has been mixed right from the start. The competition, in which the scores are added together based on the performance of each competitor, starts with a qualification phase in which each competitor takes one run, followed by a first round of finals, with eight teams, and a “super final” with three teams. Here too, the first appearance of this event in the FIS World Championships was at Deer Valley (Utah) on 3 February 2019, and it was Switzerland that was the surprise winner thanks to highly consistent performances by Carole Bouvard, Nicolas Gygax and Noé Roth, who scored 303.8 points ahead of China (Mengtao Xu, Jiaxu Sun and Xindi Wang) – 297.82 points – and Russia (Liubov Nikitina, Stanislav Nikitin, Maxim Burov) – 296.74 points. It is interesting to note that Australia, which finished seventh, and Kazakhstan, in eighth place, had teams composed of two women and one man.

Team ski jumping

Men’s team ski jumping has already been an exciting part of the Games since 1988, so the addition of a mixed event is likely to make it even better! This competition made its World Cup debut in November 2012, and its first FIS World Championships appearance in Pedrazzo (Italy) the following year. It was won by the Japanese team of Yuki Ito, Daichi Ito, Sara Takanashi and Taku Takeuchi. The mixed team ski jump competition takes place on the normal hill with a woman-man-woman-man sequence, with the same scoring method as for the men’s competition. Germany won the title at the 2017 World Championships in Lahti (Finland), and retained the title in 2019 in Seefeld (Austria), with Katharina Althaus, Markus Eisenbichler, Juliane Seyfarth and Karl Geiger. So it will naturally be one of the countries to follow at the 2022 Games in Beijing, along with Austria, Japan, Norway, Slovenia and Poland, to name but a few! This competition made its Olympic début at the YOG Lausanne 2020, and the Austrians won it, ahead of the Japanese and French.

Mixed relay in short-track speed skating

This competition, tested at the ISU World Cup in the 2017-2018 season and held regularly the following season, sees national teams of two men and two women aiming to reach the four-team final. The order is woman-woman-man-man, and everyone starts from the same point on the track. Each relay consists of two-and-a-half laps (for a total race distance of 2,000 metres). If someone falls, only an athlete of the same sex can touch the skater and continue the relay. Here’s the view of Canada’s Kim Boutin, a three-time Olympic medallist at PyeongChang in 2018: “It’s fun to have a new event. It will be a good show but also a good challenge. I find it interesting to mix the boys and the girls to show a country’s strength as a whole, and I’m not too worried for Canada! We’ve done mixed relays in the past during training so it shouldn’t bring too much change to our training schedule.”  

The spectators at the Lausanne skating arena got to witness the Olympic debut of the mixed relay at the 2020 YOG, but with teams formed of athletes from different NOCs. Thus it was that a team composed of a Korean (Kim Chanseo), a Dutchwoman (Diede Van Oorschot), a Japanese (Shogo Miyata) and an American (Jonathan So) won after a spectacular race, which bodes very well for the show to come at the Winter Games in 2022.


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