Breaking News (Sort Of)!: Co-Ed Swim Relays?

I can't believe I still haven't blogged about the Paralympics. I'm a little bit of a failure. I actually haven't even finished watching the closing ceremony yet; I'm about 38 minutes into it and have been for, oh, three weeks now. It's just so hard to find two hours of free time! But that IS coming... eventually.

In the meantime, however, I stumbled across something today that I'm actually kind of fascinated by. According to an article on, there was a co-ed 4x50m relay at the swimming World Cup in Dubai today. Teams will be made up of two men and two women and each team can put together their legs however they want, which could mean men swimming against women depending on each team's strategy/strengths. Co-ed relays might end up in seven other major swim meets later this year and, if all goes well, they could eventually show up in the world championships and the Olympics.

Basically, we're very far from having this event in the Olympics, since it would have to be a test event first (and I'm not even sure if Rio is far enough in the future for it to happen there). But WOW. I'm unbelievably thrilled at just the possibility!

Had I even thought about co-ed events in the Olympics until today? Honestly, I'm not even sure. For the most part, gender in sport is looked at from a "men vs. women" viewpoint. And yes, men are overall better athletes, so one man swimming against one woman would be an unfair race, assuming they're the same caliber athlete. World record times for men and women in 50m races differ by two or three seconds. This is pretty on-par with most sports; men just have an advantage.

But if teams are composed of men AND women... well, that's not really an issue anymore. What's a three-seconds-slower time if another team also swims a three-seconds-slower time? It's not like swimming is a contact sport; the women are in no danger of getting laid out by a man twice their size. If these girls can swim fast, they can hang with the boys. Pretty simple, no? The German team at the World Cup had a woman swim their anchor leg and they won by over two seconds.

Call me biased, but I think this could do really great things for women's sports in general. Women can be fantastic athletes, and throwing them into co-ed competition will prove that point. So I'm on board purely for this reason alone; I want to see girls kick some butt. But look at the strategy that's involved!
While smart money and zealous assumptions would suggest an American team made up of famous names like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Ryan Lochte… a little math says that none of those gold medal swimmers would have made the cut for a hypothetical American squad in London.
Why? When you look at the results you realize that the disparity between men’s and women’s times in the backstroke and breaststroke is greater than in the butterfly and freestyle by a full second or two, so you’d want to put girls in the latter two strokes and the men in the first two.
In London that probably would have meant the Americans starting with Matt Grevers, who won gold with an Olympic record in the 100m back in London, followed by breaststroke bronze-medalist Brendan Hansen in the second leg. Then you’d definitely put world record holder Dana Vollmer in the butterfly (Team USA’s biggest advantage) and Jessica Hardy, who finished seventh in the 50m freestyle as the anchor.
Sure, you might not want to anchor with your weakest swimmer, so maybe you swap her for Cullen Jones – who won silver in the men’s 50m free – but then you risk giving up an extra second or two by swapping out Hansen for Rebecca Soni in the breaststroke. And can you really leave Phelps, Lochte, Missy, Soni, and Nathan Adrian off this team?
Mind = BLOWN. I mean, Michael Phelps is retired now, but still. I'm so intrigued! Can this PLEASE happen?!

What do you think?

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