Men and Women Playing Sports Together

Megan Nollet and Bruce Gulland look at the issue of mixed sports. Can men and women truly compete against each other?

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Megan Nollet.

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And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

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The 2018 Winter Olympics were in PyeongChang, South Korea. These Games included four new events. One of them was mixed doubles for curling. Curling players are on ice. They try to move a heavy stone into a target area. In the 2018 Olympics, a man and a woman competed on the same team together.

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The 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo will also include mixed sports like this. The Tokyo games will have 18 mixed events. Swimming and track will hold mixed relays. Table tennis will have mixed doubles. And archery and judo will also have men and women competing on the same teams.

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These changes in the Olympic Games have led to discussions about male and female athletes. Should they be competing against each other, and with each other? Today’s Spotlight is on men and women playing sports together.

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Dr. Eric Anderson is a professor who teaches about Sport and Sexuality. In an interview with the University of Warwick, he explains why male and female athletes often compete separately. He says that sports started for men. During the late 18th century, sport had a purpose. It prepared men to be good workers for physical jobs. It also helped train them to be soldiers. People believed that men were stronger than women. While there were some small changes over time, men played most sports. Women did not have many chances to play sports until the 1970s. Women were separated from men and did not compete against them. People feared that women would be damaged by men’s violence, even if there was no physical touching in the sport itself.

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Laura Capranica is a professor of sport science at the Foro Italico University of Rome. She told that the issue of women and men in sports is complex. It is not just about who would win a game or if someone would get hurt. In many countries, there are cultural or religious reasons that women do not join sports.

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The most common reason people say that male and female athletes should not compete together is that men are stronger and faster than women. In 2010, there was a study published in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. It found that women are not as fast or as strong as men. Genetics and chemical hormones in the body affect height, weight, body fat, and muscle mass. This means that there are biological differences in men’s and women’s bodies. Men have bigger hearts and lungs, less fat, denser bones, and heavier skeletons that support more strength. They have narrower hip bones. This also decreases their chance of injury. These biological differences could give men an advantage over women in sports.

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Alice Dreger is an expert on gender, medicine, and science. She says these differences are important. She told

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“Part of the reason that we divide a lot of sports is because the skill level is, just on average, different between men and women. It is not that different in some ways than when we separate some sports by how much people weigh.”

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But women also have athletic advantages. Men may be stronger and faster. But women seem to have a physical advantage in endurance exercise. This is exercise that uses muscles for a very long time. One study about this appeared in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Medicine in 2017. Researchers studied endurance in men and women. They asked men and women to repeat an exercise 200 times. They found that men completed the exercise first. Men were stronger and faster at the beginning of the exercise. But the men became tired much faster than the women. The women took a longer time to do the exercise. But they had more power at the end.

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And women are getting faster. In the past, men have achieved many of the fastest times for running races. However, in modern times, women are starting to get fastest times that are similar to men’s.

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Women can be competitive athletes. Many women have competed against men - and won! For example, in 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel. She beat the men’s record by two hours. In 1992, Zhang Shan won a gold medal in skeet shooting - a sport that involves shooting at moving targets. The event was mixed, so she defeated both men and women to win the gold medal. In 2008, Eri Yoshida was the first woman asked to join a professional Japanese baseball team.

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These are just some examples of women who have successfully competed against men. Some people use these women as examples to support mixed sports. They believe that the best athletes should compete against each other, no matter if they are male or female.

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People who support mixed sports also point to several social benefits. Men and women can create friendships and increase their respect for each other. Majidah Nantanda is from Uganda. She plays and coaches football. She grew up playing football with her brothers. She was very good, but some boys did not want her on their team. Then they saw her play. After that, they all wanted her to play on their teams. She used this power to encourage other girls to join. She told the Global Sports Mentoring Program:

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“I was the best one on the field. Boys wanted me on their team. And I would say, ‘If you want me on your team, you have to let two or three other girls play as well.’ That’s how I got other girls involved in football.”

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Mixed sports may have positive or negative results. And the Olympics and other games will influence how people talk and think about sports. What do you think about mixed sports? Should men and women compete against each other? Should they compete on the same teams? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on our Facebook page at

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The writer of this program was Lauren Anders Visser. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “Men and Women Playing Sports Together.”

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Visit our website to download our free listening app for Android or Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Should men and women compete against each other? Should they compete on the same teams?


Avatar Spotlight
said on September 14, 2018

Congratulations for the good text you bring us this time. Actually I think it is a great prejudice against women who do not are permitted to participate in competitions with and against men. I would like a lot to see men and women disputing the box world championship or in a big event of karate or of greek-roman fight. It would be a succes… Obviously, I’m being ironic, except for the quality of the text.

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 15, 2018

This topic is very good in other words I think that would be great.
It would be good to see a volleyball match compete against each other or on the same team.
I hope this mixed sports in the next Olimpic games begin to stuck the cultural differences between man and women and increasing the relations each other.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 29, 2018

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: to answere to the questions below
Date: Saturday 29, Sepember 2018
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Megan Nollet, Bruce Gulland,  Lauren Anders Visser, and Michio Ozaki:
Question 1 -  Should men and women compete against each other? Yes, they should compete each other. Of course.
Question 2 - Should they compete on the same teams? Yes, they should compete on the same team. Of course.
Thank you very much
Your regards,
Severino Ramos
From Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 28, 2019


Is very truly,  in this time, is very common see a men and woman play sports together, even the womans have special skill a few sport, is amazing see woman play football or drive a car in a competition.
great item

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 29, 2019

Each of us wishes beautiful good things in life. Each of us wishes peace in life. Life has difficulties and challenges. Peaceful month years are happiness. Each of us builds for a beautiful good world. Each of us contributes to building for a beautiful good world. We make much effort to overcome difficulties and challenges. We make much effort to live our lives for beautiful good things. Each of us wishes beautiful good things in life. Each of us wishes peace in life. A beautiful good world is a world where everyone is respected. A beautiful good world is a peaceful world.