The Rise of Mixed Events at the Tokyo Olympics
August 1, 2021 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Seven Olympic sports have added mixed events. The new events pose interesting tactical and strategic challenges. "On Saturday, the race’s unique configuration meant that Lydia Jacoby, the gold medalist in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke, wound up swimming the second leg for the U.S. against Adam Peaty of Britain, the men’s world-record holder. Caeleb Dressel, the men’s 100-meter freestyle champion, later anchored the Americans by trying to swim down three women but was too far behind and was slowed by rough water that churned in front of him. The U.S. finished fifth, three seconds behind Britain, whose relay team set a world record."

And the mixed 4 x100m relay ended up being one of the more unpredictable of the Games:

"An enormous crash took out Germany and nearly eliminated Jamaica. By the time Vernon Norwood took the baton from Kaylin Whitney, the United States saddled in fourth place. Norwood motored around the back stretch, and by the time he came off the far turn, he was moving into second place. Poland ended up winning the race, and Alexander Ogando of the Dominican Republic edged Norwood by one-hundredth of a second to take the silver. The United States ended up with bronze."
posted by storybored (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is the best addition to the Olympic sports in a long long time. The mixed swim relay was exciting and fun to watch. I vote for mixed team volleyball - both indoor and beach.
posted by double bubble at 7:11 AM on August 1 [17 favorites]

We've really enjoyed the mixed relays! There was some really fascinating strategy involved in the swimming, and the triathlon was absolutely gripping to watch. More please!
posted by adrianhon at 7:45 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]

Mixed badminton was very exciting as well, we watched the streams online
posted by jazon at 8:14 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]

Obligatory mention that shooting events used to be all-gender until a woman won.
posted by hoyland at 9:42 AM on August 1 [62 favorites]

For Paris, I will hope for some big sister, little brother events too. Show the rest what real rivalry is about.
posted by rongorongo at 9:52 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]

The mixed triathlon was great! It’s really worth watching a replay if you haven’t seen it.

I also did think it was interesting that in the running relay prelims, not every country the the same order of runners— I think Nigeria had a woman run last? The mixed tri everyone did the same order, but I don’t know if that a requirement or it’s just that everyone thinks it’s the right strategy.
posted by nat at 10:03 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]

@nat It’s a requirement.
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 10:11 AM on August 1

three seconds behind Britain, whose relay team set a world record."

By about 0.8 seconds! Even with a slip against the wall for the first leg. Very exciting match. Dressed was able to pull back pretty well in the men's event for the good though.

Stayed up for the mixed triathlon and enjoyed every that too.
posted by biffa at 11:21 AM on August 1

Dressel boot Dressed. Stupid autocorrect.
posted by biffa at 11:46 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]

For the mixed swimming medley do the teams know which order the other teams will run their swimmers in? If they don't that'd be kind of interesting - would they try to mix things up on the fly once they see who does whichever stroke?
posted by storybored at 12:01 PM on August 1

The mixed Triathlon relay was really exciting - 2 women, 2 men, each doing 300m swim, 6.8km cycle, 2km run. The short sections and changes of competitor meant it felt really snappy compared to the much longer solo triathlon events. I didn't realise they'd added a bunch of mixed events.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:41 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]

The mixed triathlon has a fixed start order (woman-man-woman-man) although I noted that at least the French and the British at least, put their stronger performers on the last two legs. It did look like most teams put their fastest man on the anchor leg. I enjoyed watching it enormously, it was amazing to see the French pull back into contention, as well as the Americans finishing strongly for silver, as well as the British win (finally an Olympic gold for the younger Brownlee). In the 4x400m athletics, it looks like at the moment the best order is man-woman-woman-man, certainly that's the one everyone switched to. But I understand it is a free choice.

The swimming mixed medley relay is the really interesting one, because each team will have a different mix of abilities in the different strokes in the men's and women's teams. The British had a massive advantage in having a men's breaststroke swimmer who is consistently faster than anyone else in the world. Breaststroke is the slowest stroke, so received wisdom is that you can make a bigger proportionate difference with a fast leg there. And, when I looked at the splits earlier today, the gold was won on Peaty's leg as he made up for some of his team mates being maybe a quarter of a second slower each than their nearest rivals.
posted by plonkee at 2:35 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]

Peaty is just ridiculous. Only one other man has managed to do the 100m breaststroke in under 58s, a 57.8. Peaty's world record is under 57s. Total specialist though, dominates the 50m & 100m breaststroke, not the 200m and not the other swimming disciplines. (No 50m at Tokyo so limited gold opportunities, he is world champ though.)
posted by biffa at 3:47 PM on August 1

The triathlon relay with the running dives into the water was intense.
posted by MattWPBS at 3:59 PM on August 1

For the mixed swimming medley do the teams know which order the other teams will run their swimmers in? If they don't that'd be kind of interesting - would they try to mix things up on the fly once they see who does whichever stroke?

No, people are stroke specialists — you wouldn't swap once you're in. The more interesting question comes when you balance out how relatively good your various options are. The Brits had Peaty, but they also had Guy, and I think a solid middle paid off since, as Dressel showed, you can be fast as fuck but still run out of space.
posted by dame at 1:45 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]

The US messed up in its strategy for the mixed medley relay - you want to use your male swimmers for the strokes with the biggest differences between male and female swimmers - so definitely butterfly and likely breast. The last leg should definitely have been a woman, as all the other teams did. There is some suggestion that the US team was constrained by their potential swimmers being entered in other events close to the relay time, but otherwise it does seem like an inability to do math hampered the US team strategy.
posted by peacheater at 5:52 AM on August 2

I have never watched a minute of judo before, but I happened to start a random stream of the mixed judo team tournament during a matchup between France and Israel. At first, it just seemed like a lot of confusing bathrobe tugging to me, but right as I started to figure out the rules and what was going on (this was one of those awesome streams of the whole event with no commentary) -- the huge heavyweights finished and the whole mixed battle ended in a tie. Then, all the men and women from the two teams came out and faced each other. And suddenly, like in some sort of crazy video game, this giant screen announced "DECISION CONTEST!" -- and then -- like a slot machine -- picked a random gender and weight class which suddenly meant that one -70kg girl was going to have to fight all over again in a "Golden Score" sudden death match for the whole team & country! It was great seeing their teammates trying to pump them up before their bout despite all the pressure. It was awesome and definitely got me hooked and watching the entire rest of the tournament.

The decision contest aspect was great, but even watching matches that didn't end in a tie was cool -- it seemed like they were switching up the weight class/gender order, so each match didn't just come down to just the heavyweights. You never knew which fighter would have all the pressure riding on the lapels of their robes.

If you happen to be able to access the NBC Olympics site, it is listed as "Judo: Mixed Team Elimination, Quarterfinals, Semifinals: Mat 2" and the Decision Contest excitement occurs as the heavyweights end around minute 138:00.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 5:38 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]

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