In Which Olympic Events Do Women And Men Currently Compete Directly Against Each Other?

Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Chase Reiner

At the summer Olympic Games, there are two sports where men and women compete directly against each other, in equestrian and in one of sailing events.

men and women in olympics

In Which Olympic Events Do Women And Men Currently Compete Directly Against Each Other?

At present, quite a few Olympic events feature men and women competing directly against each other, which underscores the universality of sports and the global push towards gender equality. Here’s a closer look at these events:

  1. Equestrian Events

All Equestrian events such as Jumping, Eventing, and Dressage at the Olympics are mixed-gender. This gives a unique competitive platform for male and female athletes to compete on equal footing.

  1. Sailing

Sailing, another event in the Olympics where women and men compete directly against each other, comprises of different classes such as 49er, 49erFX (men/women or mixed teams), Nacra 17 (a mixed multihull class), and Laser Radial (female single hander) and more.

  1. Tennis and Badminton Doubles

In tennis and badminton, there’s the unique aspect of mixed doubles competition wherein a male and female athlete team up to compete against similar mixed pairs.

  1. Figure Skating

In Winter Olympics, Figure Skating combines elegance and athleticism, regardless of gender. In this event, male and female athletes directly compete against each other and are judged on the same parameters – jumps, spins, footwork, lifts, throw jumps, and spirals.

  1. Curling

Another Winter Olympics sport, Mixed Doubles Curling directly pits men and women against each other on an icy spectacle of strategy, precision, and athleticism.

Equestrian EventsAll disciplines are mixed-gender
SailingDifferent classes host mixed-gender teams
Tennis & Badminton DoublesMixed doubles teams compete directly
Figure SkatingPerformance judged on the same parameters
CurlingMixed doubles competition

In conclusion, it is important to note that while direct competition between female and male athletes in the Olympics isn’t commonplace, there has been a steady increase in mixed-gender events. This trend is expected to continue, fostering inclusivity and fairness in modern sporting events.

Reasons for gender segregation in sports

  • Physiological differences  between men and women

Men are generally stronger, taller, and heavier than women. This means that competing on an equal basis isn’t possible in most sports. A good example was the U.S fencing championship in 1938. Helene Mayer beat the fencing champion, but her title was taken away, and a ban was instituted on men-women competitions. The fencing commission gave the reason for the ban to be that Mayer won in an unfair fight because men “can’t go all out” when playing against women.

Women also have a better balance, which can be attributed to having a lower center of gravity. This gives them a distinct advantage over men in sports such as shooting.

  • It  is the tradition of the sport

Some sports remain segregated by gender because it is the tradition, and that is what society is used to. Research shows that most fans would never watch a football match where men play against women. This means that if the rules of the competition change, there would be fewer fans leading to loss of business for brand marketers, TV networks, and sports leagues.

  • For  safety

Research has shown that the Olympics are segregated to safeguard the safety of the players, especially during training. Men and women have different endurance levels, and therefore putting them together in one team isn’t a good idea for most sports. The team coach will have to come up with new techniques to fit both genders. This remains a hassle that is not welcome in the Olympics.

There are some Olympic sports in which men and women compete either in mixed teams or against each other. Here are different ways:

Mixed team events

Some sports allow men and women to form a team and compete against another mixed team. This enhances fair competition since both teams feature the same number of males and females. Such sports include:

Tennis: in mixed double matches, each team has one man and one woman. This form of tennis is, however, rare in professional games since men’s and women’s tours are organized separately.

Badminton:  just as is the case for tennis, you can have a mixed doubles match where each team consists of one man and one woman.

Luge: traditional luge had a doubles competition that allowed a team of males and females, but most of the time, the teams were only made up of men. The doubles event was later replaced by the mixed relay which allows competition between teams with equal numbers of men and women

Ice skating: ice skating includes both figure skating and ice dancing. This sport allows a mixed-gender team referred to as a pair to showcase their skills on ice as they compete against another pair.

Mixed-gender events

These are the sports that allow men and women to compete directly and equally against each other. The physiological differences between men and women do not have any effect on the outcome of the competition. They have been played by both men and women ever since they were invented; thus, it is typical for men and women to compete in such sports. They are: 

Sailing: the sport of sailing was the first to have a compulsory mixed-gender event in the 2016 Olympics. Males and females are allowed to compete on equal terms either as individuals or as part of a team.

Motorcycle racing: this isthe sport of racing motorcycles either on tracks or on open courses. There are different categories of Moto racing, and all of them allow for mixed-gender competitions. Ana Carrasco from Spain became the first woman to win a world championship motorcycle race in September 2017.

Darts: this is a sport in which two or more players throw small missiles at a target that is known as a dartboard. Darts was played traditionally as a pub game then it was introduced as a professional competitive sport. There exist separate men’s and women’s darts championship, although there are no restrictions on men competing against women. Fallon Sherrock made history at the PDC World Championship in 2017 by becoming the first woman to beat a man in darts.

Equestrian: in 1900, equestrian events were introduced in the modern Olympic Games. Equestrianism, commonly known as horse riding, includes driving, riding, and vaulting with horses. This sport allows competition between men and women and has different forms of competition which are:

  • Crosscountry jumping: in this event, horses jump over fixed obstacles such as ditches, stone walls, logs, and water trying to finish the course under the optimum time.
  • Eventing: this is also referred to as the combined training. It brings together the athletic ability of show jumping, the obedience of dressage, and the fitness demands of the cross-country jumping phase.

Participating in sports in which women compete directly with men allows building friendship between genders and also prevents stereotyping. Sports need to focus on another criterion of segregation other than just gender and physiology.


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