By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
POZNAN, Poland, July 11. NOT long after the Russian relays put on a show in Kazan, the future of the Russian national team lit up the competition 1500 miles away in Poznan at European Junior Championships. The Russian medal haul this evening at European Juniors included five golds, which may be a wake-up call for some of the other countries participating. As I said before, Junior teams are often the precursor to the senior team for many swimmers, and success here can fuel confidence later on in a swimmer's career.
The final Russian victory of the evening came in the mixed 4x100 freestyle relay, an event that featured two male and two female swimmers on each team. I had many opportunities in my swimming career, but racing on a mixed gender national team relay was never one of them.
Although a meet like World Championships or the Olympics would never go for an event like this, I would love to see more mixed relays for multiple reasons. First of all, can you imagine if Pan Pacs had a mixed relay? How many people would die to see Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte on the same relay team? This would do wonders for the popularity of swimming.
From a team-building perspective, mixed relays are something that could be extremely beneficial for a national team. Swimming is a weird sport, where we are a "team", and yet we are all individuals. After trials, you have to turn around and be "good teammates" with girls you had just spent the entire season trying to beat.
Although as a Canadian team we would try to do lots of team activities, they were often divided into "women's team" and "men's team" functions. Throwing the men and women together into something as important and sacred as a relay would do wonders for camaraderie.
Maybe if they introduce a mixed relay at the 2014 Pan Pacs, I'll come out of retirement. But probably not.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o