The New Olympic Events Debuting in Tokyo for 2021

From freestyle BMX to mixed team relays in the pool and on the track, here’s what you need to know

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The Tokyo Olympics will be the biggest ever, contesting 339 events across 41 different sports. Two dozen events are being added to existing sports, in addition to the brand-new sports of 3x3 basketball, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and karate, as well as the one-time return of baseball and softball.

Many of the new events resolve disparities between male and female athletes. Although women have competed at the Olympics since 1900, they have historically had many fewer opportunities for medals than men have. In Tokyo, however, the International Olympic Committee expects that 49% of competitors will be women, the largest share ever.

Other new events will pair up men and women in mixed team events, which have proved popular in sports like tennis. Here’s a look at all the new additions to these familiar Olympic sports:

What are the new mixed team events at the Olympics in 2021?

Prior to Tokyo, the Olympics have featured a few mixed team events: mixed doubles in both badminton and tennis, as well as the mixed Nacra 17 in sailing. Men and women also compete against one another in equestrian. This summer, seven more sports will include mixed team events:

Swimming will feature a 4x100m medley relay with two men and two women on each team, taking place on July 29 and 31. Similarly, track and field will have a mixed 4x400m relay on July 30 and 31. Table tennis will add a mixed doubles tournament, taking place July 23-26. 

Judo’s mixed team event on July 30-31 includes three men and three women on each team, with every athlete coming from a different weight class. In the triathlon, also on July 30-31, two men and two women will compete on each team in the mixed team relay super sprint. Shooting will add three mixed team events in air rifle (July 27), air pistol (July 26-27) and trap (July 31). Each team in archery’s mixed event on July 23-24 will be made up of one man and one woman playing match-play format.

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What are the new individual events in the Tokyo Olympics?

Boxing will add the women’s featherweight (57 kg/125 lb) and welterweight (69 kg/152 lb) divisions, bringing the women’s program to five weight classes compared to eight for the men. Women’s featherweight will conclude on Aug. 2, and women’s welterweight on Aug. 7.

Canoe/kayak will have several new events. In canoe slalom, women will compete in the single canoe event (C-1) for the first time on July 28 and 29, joining men’s C-1, men’s single kayak (K-1) and women’s K-1. There will now be six canoe sprint events each for men and women, though the distances differ. The new events are men’s K-4 500m (Aug. 5-6), women’s C-1 200m (Aug. 3-4) and women’s C-2 500m (Aug. 5-6).

Cycling is also adding two events in the men's and women's BMX freestyle (July 30-31) and Madison (Aug 6-8). The Madison is an exciting relay race named after Madison Square Garden that pits two teams of two against each other to complete more laps on the track. The men's Madison was previously part of the Olympic program in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Fencing will have more team events, adding men’s team sabre (July 27-28) and women’s team foil (July 28-29). Now, men and women will each have team events in all three fencing disciplines (epee, foil and sabre), which use different weapons and masks, with different target areas to hit on the opponent’s body.

In rowing, a four-person boat race will be added to the women’s program for the first time, making the men’s and women’s programs equal with seven events each. It will take place on July 23, 27 and 28.

Swimming is adding two individual events that have long been part of the FINA World Championships: the men’s 800m freestyle (July 27 and 28) and women’s 1500m freestyle (July 26 and 27). Previously, only the reverse events, women’s 800m and men’s 1500m, were on the Olympic program. The women’s 1500m is sure to boost Katie Ledecky’s medal haul: She hasn’t lost a race over 200m long in seven years.

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