Do Men and Women Ever Compete in the Same Sport?

Man and woman playing badminton

Dziurek /

Whilst in day-to-day life men and women live, work, and socialise together, sport has generally remained an activity that segregates its competitors by sex. The main reason for this is that men and women are physically built differently. Men are generally taller, heavier, stronger, and quicker than women which means that competing on an equal basis isn’t really possible in most sports. 

Generally, most sports segregate men’s and women’s competitions to ensure the sport is competitive and more enjoyable to both play and watch. However, not all sports completely segregate male and female competition. In some sports, men and women compete together and they do this in two different ways.

Mixed Events

Firstly, some sports have mixed events. This is where men and women form a team (usually, but not always, a duo) and compete against another mixed team. This way, men and women compete together and against each other in a fair way as both teams feature the same number of male and female players. Sports that operate in this way are as follows:

  • Badminton: As well as having separate male and female competitions, men and women compete as a male/female duo in mixed doubles competitions.
  • Luge: The luge traditionally had a doubles competition in which male and female teams were allowed. In reality though most of the teams were made up of men. From 2014, however, the doubles event was replaced by the mixed relay, which is competed by teams with equal numbers of men and women.
  • Tennis: Like badminton, as well as separate male and female competitions, men and women compete as a male/female team in mixed doubles matches.
  • Ice skating: Male/female pairs compete together performing a dance on the ice. A popular Olympic sport, when Torvill and Dean won the Olympic gold in 1984, it was one of the most watched Olympic events of all time.

True Mixed Sex Sports

There are a small number of sports where men and women compete against each other regardless of sex. In these sports, the physical differences between men and women are deemed not to have any effect on the outcome of any competition.

  • Equestrian: An Olympic sport in which competitors ride horses, Equestrian consists of dressage, jumping, and eventing. Men and women compete in this event together. The reason for this is that the attributes required to be successful are to be a confident and able rider of horses, something in which the sexes don’t differ.
  • Sailing: Men and women compete together in sailing although it is only in one particular class, the Nacre 17. Other classes are segregated by sex.