Athletes have competed in mixed-gender Olympic competitions in sports such as sailing, equestrian, badminton and tennis, but Tokyo will be the first time for mixed relays at the Olympics in the pool and on the track.
Depending on the tactics each country takes, the relays will offer opportunities for men and women to race head to head, on land and in the water. Each team consists of two men and two women, but the competition order is up to each team, allowing for some intriguing matchups.
Mixed 4x100m medley relay (Swimming)
Strokes in the mixed medley relay are in the same order as in a traditional medley race–backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle–but each team decides who will swim which stroke, and thus the order in which their men and women will swim.
Some teams prefer to start with the men swimming the first two legs of the relay, to get an early lead in less choppy water; other teams prefer to have the men swim the middle two legs. Of the eight teams that qualified for the final, half chose to race man-woman-woman-man, and the other half chose woman-man-man-woman. Teams don’t always have the same swimmers racing in the prelims and the finals, so more changes could be in store. The mixed 4x100m medley relay will be the final race of the Saturday morning session in Tokyo, and will be broadcast in primetime on Friday night in the U.S.
Mixed 4x400m relay (Track & Field)
In track, the mixed 4x400m relay was introduced at the 2017 World Relays in Nassau, in the Bahamas. It was first run at the World Championships in 2019 in Doha, and is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.