Olympics right in the mix when it comes to equality

Australian sailor Nia Jerwood is riding the wave of gender equity at the Paris Olympics, where 50 per cent of athletes will be women.

It marks the first time at a Games where women have an equal share with men among the 10,500 athletes competing across 329 events.

And it's fitting that it's happening in Paris, which in 1900 hosted the first Games where women were welcome, with 22 of the 997 athletes female.

In the past 40 years it's been a steady climb, with 23 per cent at Los Angeles 1984; 44 per cent at London 2012; and 48 per cent at Tokyo 2020.

The 2024 Olympics will feature a record 20 mixed-gender events, while athletics, boxing and cycling will reach parity in their athlete quotas for the first time, making it  28 out of 32 sports fully gender-balanced.

Cycling has not made any changes to its events, only adjusting the athlete quotas within its disciplines. 

The biggest impact will be felt in road cycling, which will feature 90 men and 90 women, compared with 130 men and 67 women in Tokyo.

That means the only sports without gender balance are wrestling (192 men, 96 women), soccer (288 men, 216 women), gymnastics (206 women, 112 men), and aquatics (722 women, 648 men).

Along with sailing, other notable mixed-sex events include the 4x400m athletics relay and newly minted marathon race walk relay, which replaces the men’s 50km race walk in Paris.

There are also mixed team events in judo, shooting - with skeet replacing trap this Olympics - and relays in swimming and triathlon.

Men can for the first time compete in the artistic swimming team, while equestrian remains the original gender-equity sport, with male and female riders competing directly against one another in individual and team eventing.

Jerwood will compete in a new mixed-gender 470 sailing event, which replaces men's and women's races in the same class, while the mixed Nacra 17 class continues after making its debut in Rio.

In Tokyo, Jerwood partnered Monique de Vries in the women's two-person dinghy, but the transition to a mixed pair, joining with Conor Nicholas, felt natural for the 26-year-old.

Olympic sailors Conor Nicholas and Nia Jerwood.
Olympic sailors Conor Nicholas and Nia Jerwood grew up competing against each other.

"Conor and I grew up sailing against each other," Jerwood told AAP.

"I used to compete against Conor, and in the junior levels I used to beat him.

"But he does make the joke now that he crosses the line in front of me every time," she added, referring to their boat set-up.

For role models in mixed sailing the Perth-based athlete doesn't have to look far, with her parents Nick and Janet teaming to win gold at the 2005 Flying Fifteen world championships.

Australia is sending a team of 460 athletes to Paris - 255 men and 205 women.

The International Olympic Committee has also made changes to the Games schedule to showcase female athletes, with the women's marathon running a day after the men's to conclude the athletics program a few hours before the closing ceremony. 

“We are about to celebrate one of the most important moments in the history of women at the Olympic Games, and in sport overall,” IOC president Thomas Bach said of the gender equality in Paris.

“We are looking forward to Paris 2024, where we will see the results of the enormous efforts made by the Olympic movement and female trailblazers come to life. This is our contribution to a more gender-equal world."

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