Saturday June 10, 2017 may go down in the annals of swimming history as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made an announcement that would change the face of Olympic swimming. In an attempt to boost female participation in the sport as well as to extend the appeal of Olympic sports to the younger generation, the committee announced the addition of two new individual events as well as the addition of mixed-gender relays to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
On the men’s side, the 800 meter freestyle was added while the 1500 meter freestyle rounds out the distance events of the women’s side. These two distance events being added provides a historic event as, for the first time, male and female swimmers will be able to swim the exact same events on the swimming line-up. This will surely be of interest to swimmers like Katy Ledecky, the American female distance swimmer who would be a major contender to win the first ever gold in the new event. Furthermore, this will allow distance swimmers to medal in more events in Tokyo.
While the addition of distance events was met with appreciation and excitement, the addition of a mixed-gender relay was met with mixed reviews. This event would be a new 400 meter relay that would see the competition of teams of two male and two female swimmers from a country. This event has been present for two years at the summer world championships for swimming; however, many countries have not taken this event seriously. The addition creates some confusion as nations must begin to seriously creating a mixed gender relay for the summer championships in anticipation for the event’s unveiling in three years in Japan.
As of right now, swimmers and coaches around the world can only speculate about the immediate and long-term effects of the announcement; hopefully these changes will help achieve the IOC’s goal to achieve record levels of female participation for the 2020 games.