For the first time – big drum roll! – a major international swimming championships is to feature mixed gender relays. The opening meet of the World Cup in Dubai will feature 4 x 50m relays with teams made up of two men and two women. To make the relays even more exciting, it is up to the team to decide what order the men and women will swim. So it could be that a woman could race against a man on the anchor leg.
We wonder if this could be the start of a new battle of the sexes event – and whether it will appear in the next Olympic games. Certainly, the mixed gender events will add real excitement to the World Cup swimming events.
Cornel Marculescu, executive director of swimming’s governing body FINA said: "It's really important for every discipline, every sport, to improve, to look forward to develop further. We will test it in the World Cup and see how this is going and will probably introduce at the world championship in Istanbul in December if results are acceptable for
One top swimmer said: "When we bring in these kinds of relays, it will be extremely exciting for the first couple of years. No one knows what will happen. Who are the favorites? How it will work? Who they will choose? I'm all for making sport bigger."
It’s thought that the move has come about following Chinese star Ye Shiwen's amazing performance at the 2012 London Games. In her last – and winning – freestyle lap in the women's 400m individual medley , she was a split-second faster than what American champion Ryan Lochte posted in the final 50m of the men's race.
But critics complain that the move adds another event to an already crowded schedule and that there are already plenty of big names in the sport to attract fans.
European Swimming Federation President Paolo Barelli said. ""I don't think we need innovation at all costs. We've already got a full programme over eight days (at major competitions) with great personalities, both men and women."