To increase gender equality at the Games, mixed events have become a core element of the Olympic programme. At Beijing 2022, there will be nine mixed events - four new ones and five that have already been featured at past Olympics.
On 5 February, the short track speed skating mixed relay will make its Olympic debut and the event's first-ever medals will be handed out.
A maximum of 12 teams with four athletes per team will battle it out in a frantic event that is sure to be a must-see for every sports fan.
Short track speed skating mixed relay format
The mixed relay will make its Olympic debut at Beijing 2022. While it is a new Olympic short track discipline it has featured at the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup since the 2018/19 season.
There have also been mixed relay competitions at the Youth Winter Olympics since the 2012 Games in Innsbruck, although the format will differ slightly in Beijing.
At Lausanne 2020, teams were formed by athletes from different National Olympic Committees (NOCs), with a diverse group called Team B winning the gold medal. The athletes that competed in this team were Kim Chan-seo (KOR), Diede van Oorschot (NED), Shogo Miyata (JPN) and Jonathan So (USA).
At Beijing 2022, the skaters competing in the mixed relay must have qualified for individual competitions or the men’s or women’s relays. Each team will be made up of four athletes: two women and two men. However, unlike Lausanne 2020, the teams will represent their own NOCs.
The Beijing 2022 competition consists of a 2,000-metre race, in which the four skaters cover 18 laps of a track that is 111.12 metres long. Each athlete will race twice in the following order: woman-woman-man-man-woman-woman-man-man.
It is not unusual for the medals to be decided by a thousandth of a second.
When and where to follow the mixed relay at Beijing 2022
The Capital Indoor Stadium will host all of the short track speed skating events, including the mixed team relay.
The mixed relay will take place on 5 February, just a day after the Opening Ceremony. Keep your eyes glued to the screen, as all of the medals will be decided within a one-hour period. The event starts at 20:23 local time with the quarterfinals, followed swiftly by the semi-finals. Final B begins at 21:18, while final A kicks off at 21:26. The entire event is scheduled to finish by 21:34.
What's new? An Olympian explains
Despite the mixed team relay being a new competition, the impact it has had on the sport can already be felt.
Diede van Oorschot, a Youth Olympic Games gold medallist, explained the reasons to Olympics.com: “I like the mixed nationalities and mix of boys and girls because it is very fast and very different,” she said.
While teams are now made up of athletes from the same NOC, the ability to work together is still of paramount importance.
"Relays have always been a big part of our training. Coaches have integrated relays, not just as a tool to prepare for a team event, but also as a way to help perform better in individual events. So mixed relays have always been there. It’s interesting to now try them in real races,” said Sofia Prosvirnova, a two-time Olympian and member of the ROC mixed relay team that won the World Cup stage in Nagoya at the end of October.
Prosvirnova also explained the links between the mixed relay and individual 500m races, saying: "Short, fast segments in which fast, explosive starts and maximum speed are essential."
However, the athlete also made it clear that racing in a team is very different from competing on your own: "It’s really hard to say because there’s no obvious leader in a mixed relay. I think that it will be the most unpredictable event."
Who to look out for?
Republic of Korea will enter the competition as one of the favourites, after smashing the 2,000m mixed relay world record at last October’s Short Track Speed Skating World Cup event in Beijing (2:35.951).
However, the Korean team will have strong competition at Beijing 2022, because just two days earlier People's Republic of China and the Netherlands also beat the world record.
But since then, other teams emerged as contenders for the Olympic crown, including ROC, People's Republic of China and Hungary.
One thing's for sure, you won’t want to take your eyes off the competition at Beijing 2022.
The world record has not yet been ratified.