Mixed gender events in synchronised swimming and diving have been given the green light by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) following an Extraordinary Congress in Doha today.
Mixed 10 metre platform and 3m springboard synchronised events will also be introduced in diving, although no timeline has yet been announced as to when they will be showcased at World Cup and World Championship level.
But it is the synchronised swimming change which is most interesting due to the utter absence of men in mainstream events until now, despite a growing male presence in the sport in some parts of the world in recent years.
In nations including Canada, France and the United States, men are a regular presence at national-level competitions, while there is a growing international Championships for men, called the Men's Cup, which is in compliance with FINA regulations.
"This is a great thing for the sport and much of the FINA family is excited about this bold new move," FINA chair of the Technical Sychronised Swimming Committee Public Relations Sub-Committee Lisa Schott told insidethegames this afternoon.
The decisions come at a time when the sports world is keenly embracing the prospect of more mixed team events, with the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation having recently approved mixed gender four-man bobsleigh teams.
Many mixed gender events were held at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing this summer, including in swimming where mixed 4x100m medley relays were hailed as a huge success.
These changes also show FINA's desire to modernise and avoid any sense of complacency as the Olympic Movement remains locked in the final stages of the Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process, coming to a head with the IOC Session in Monte Carlo on December 8 and 9.
Changes to the Olympic sports and disciplines programme is a key aspect of this process, as the International Olympic Committee bids to find a way to accommodate new sports.
Elsewhere at the Congress, which was attended by delegates spanning 155 National Member Federations, high diving was official rubber-stamped as the sixth FINA aquatic discipline, to join synchronised, open water and pool swimming, as well as water polo and diving.
Several technical innovations have also been introduced across the six disciplines, including electronic lap counters to be used in 800m and 1,500m freestyle swimming races, as well as an obligation for open water swimmers to hit an automatic touch pad, if available, at the finish of a race in order to validate the time and ranking.
"After this Congress, FINA has improved tools to continue developing its activities," FINA President Julio C. Maglione said afterwards.
"We live in a very competitive sports market, and as a leading International Federation, we need to have the best possible rules to face the inevitable challenges in this area."
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November 2014: Gabon, St Maarten and Belize approved as new members of FINA
September 2014: FIBT approves mixed-gender four-man bobsleigh teams
August 2014: Exclusive: ITTF target mixed doubles competition at Tokyo 2020
August 2014: Colombian world champion dominates at inaugural High Diving World Cup