Active Stocks
Wed Dec 06 2023 15:52:23
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 131.8 0.15%
  1. State Bank Of India share price
  2. 608.1 -0.05%
  1. Power Grid Corporation Of India share price
  2. 224.4 0.9%
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 722.4 1.99%
  1. NTPC share price
  2. 281.15 -1.52%
Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  The world must welcome the ascent of mixed-gender sports
Back Back

The world must welcome the ascent of mixed-gender sports

These can be more interesting as they engage more of our faculties

Just look at the meteoric rise of pickleball, another sport in which men and women commonly compete together, or the popularity of e-sports, which aren’t sex-segregated.Premium
Just look at the meteoric rise of pickleball, another sport in which men and women commonly compete together, or the popularity of e-sports, which aren’t sex-segregated.

The assumption that an athlete’s birth sex dictates his or her performance level has made transgender participation in sports a lightning rod—but the issue is moot in coed sports, from competitive sailing to pickle-ball to e-sports. And in the future, athletics are likely to evolve so that mixed-gender competition becomes common. That will lead to a rise in sports that are just as rivetting but more inclusive. This is not to deny that men are, on average, bigger and stronger than women, and so have an advantage in sports like football, baseball, basketball, etc. Even Serena Williams has said she doesn’t want to compete against men in tennis.

But men and women do compete in other sports—and these are the most interesting. They are contests not so much of strength but of tactics, decisiveness, smart risk-taking, perseverance, courage and mental and emotional flexibility. These include car-racing, shooting, archery, equestrian events, free diving, and some extreme contests—bike races of over 1,600km, ultra-marathons that last for more than 160km, and the longest distance race of all: round-the-world solo sailing.

I declare a bias. I routinely compete against men in shorter-distance sail-boat racing. I do it every week and I’ll keep it up till I’m too decrepit to get into the boat. In sailing, separate men’s and women’s competitions exist, but the most challenging events are open to all genders. Women have won. Cole Brauer is one of them. She recently won the One-Two Race, which goes from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda single-handed and back to Newport double-handed. In a fleet of 25 boats, she won first place, with a female co-skipper on the return. I met the 29-year-old at the shipyard in Newport, where she’s preparing a 40-foot yacht to race non-stop around the world—alone. Called the Global Solo Challenge, this race isn’t just an adventure in survival but a high-stakes competition against 25 other sailors.

She’s 5’2" and light. Being smaller is a disadvantage in many sports but not long distance sailing. Brauer started sailing in college at the University of Hawaii, crewing on a two-person boat. Since she had no previous racing experience, she got paired with a skipper who had a tendency to take over. She insisted that he teach her to do her part, and then stay out of the way. Her forceful approach paid off for both—they got into a national-level competition. She learnt to be skipper and took up sailing as a career. She made money by transporting yachts to and from ocean races. She was happiest when on the deck alone. The Global Solo Challenge is the ultimate ultramarathon. One must eat enough, drink enough fluid and get enough sleep—something Brauer said you have to do in two-hour stretches even when the wind and waves become violent. A medical team has taught her how to insert an intravenous needle if she gets severely dehydrated.

There are several different solo races that go around the world, and more women are competing all the time. While the Solo Challenge allows communication with a team, the Golden Globe race, first run in 1968, requires that sailors go solo around the world with no communication or modern navigation technology. The 2022 winner of this extreme challenge was a woman, South African Kirsten Neuschäfer.

Yes, many currently popular sports favour strength and size. But there’s much to learn by giving more attention to the sports that don’t. Sports can be re-imagined and re-engineered to be more inclusive and more accessible—not only based on gender, but to people who don’t have time to train for hours every day. In the future, more people could enjoy doing sports as well as watching them on TV.

Just look at the meteoric rise of pickleball, another sport in which men and women commonly compete together, or the popularity of e-sports, which aren’t sex-segregated.

Future decades will see the invention of new sports—and perhaps some will be designed so that so that people of different genders and body types can compete. In such sports there would be no justification for restrictions on transgender athletes. Everyone would be competing as a human.

There are many reasons people will always love watching and playing sports.

Sports show us how to recognize and take advantage of good luck without getting complacent, and how to overcome bad luck without getting angry. They teach us how to recover from setbacks and mistakes, and to push through exhaustion and discouragement. The best athletes muster just the right amount of aggression and just the right level of confidence and decisiveness. Sports are a metaphor for life. And just as our attitudes about sex and gender change over time, so should sports change for the better. ©bloomberg

Milestone Alert!
Livemint tops charts as the fastest growing news website in the world 🌏 Click here to know more.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Published: 13 Sep 2023, 09:38 PM IST
Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You
Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App