Mixed gender relay in short track: the athletes' opinion ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


22 juillet 2018

Mixed gender relay in short track: the athletes' opinion

It’s with a lot of pride that the International skating union (ISU) announced that their request to add a mixed gender relay event in short track for upcoming Olympic games was granted by the International olympic committee (IOC).

By Carl Savard
Photos by Carl Savard, Martin Holtom, Danny Kim, Nathalie Lambert and Daan Breeuwsma's personnal collection

Hard work pays off
Three years. That’s how long it took for Canada’s Nathalie Lambert and the rest of the ISU’s short track technical committee to bring this breath of fresh air to the the short track world. Since she became active with the ISU in 2011, Lambert wanted to make sure her beloved sport would move forward. "We made sure all the parameters that could help a positive outcome to our request were taken care of. The new event needed to fit in the actual five days schedule of our sport at the Olympics. We needed to make sure it wouldn't need a larger amount of athletes and there was also the mixed gender criteria and the fact that it would only add one podium. We also had to take into consideration that idealy a country could not win the three medals of the podium and we brought all that to the table." This is a major step and knowing the three-time world champion, her and her colleagues probably already have other plans on the drawing board. It’s last October that the technical committee and the Beijing 2022 olympic committee joined their voices to present the project of having a new short track event at the Olympics. With the IOC wanting to move forward with mixed gender events, that’s what the ISU's short track technical committee offered.

The event
The new event will be a relay with teams made of two female skaters and two male skaters. The exchange order will be lady, lady, man, man and everyone will have to do their relay at the same spots during the race which will be every 2.5 laps. Only once will a man push a lady during the race. If there is a fall, only the athlete of the same gender than the one who fell will be able to tag and take the relay. The event was tested three times last season, including one time in Montreal during the week leading to the World championships, and will be inserted this upcoming season on the World cup circuit starting in November in Calgary. It will be raced in every legs of the 2018-19 season and checks will be awarded at the end of the season to the top 5 teams. As for the World championships, the mixed gender relay should debut in 2021, which is the season before the next Olympic games.

What do the athletes think about it?

Kim Boutin (Canada): “It’s fun to have a new event. It will be a good show but also a good challenge. I find it interesting to mix the the boys and the girls to show a country’s strength as a whole and I’m not too worried for Canada! We’ve done mixed relays in the past during training so it shouldn’t bring to much change to our training schedule.”

Elise Christie (Great Britain): “I think it’s a great idea and I really hope we can enter a team!”

Pascal Dion (Canada): “It’s a great thing! I think it will be a new style of racing that will bring more passing opportunities.”

Liu Shaolin Sandor (Hungary): “There has been talks about it for a while. I’ve never tried it but I’m really looking forward to compete in this new distance with my teammates. I think it can be exciting. We will have to adjust when we push the girls but it’s good for the sport and it’s a distance that will be fun to watch.”

Daan Breeuwsma (Netherlands): “I think it’s really nice and it may get me to skate four more years. It’s a great move! We always train with the girls so I think it’s perfect for us. I think we will have a really good team.”

Even though the event has been tested, I’m pretty sure there may be some tweeking here and there before the Olympic games in 2022, but the vibe about this new event seems very positive all over the short track world.

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