2 Controversies, Same Theme: Female Athletes' Bottoms

One is told her briefs are too small, while a team is scolded for wearing bigger shorts
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2021 11:21 AM CDT
Updated Jul 24, 2021 1:20 PM CDT

Two different athletic controversies were making headlines Tuesday, but both revolved around the same theme—the clothes women wear during competition. In one case, an athlete was told by a judge that her briefs were too revealing. In the other, a handball team was scolded because they ditched bikini bottoms for larger shorts. Details:

  • Welsh Paralympian Olivia Breen tweeted Sunday that after she completed a long jump at the English Championships, a female official informed her that her briefs were too skimpy. "I was left speechless," she wrote, per USA Today. "I have been wearing the same style sprint briefs for many years and they are specifically designed for competing in." She suggested a double standard at play: "It made me question whether a male competitor would be similarly (criticized)."
  • The 24-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, tells CNN she is filing a complaint and hopes to wear the briefs at the Tokyo Paralympics, where she will represent Britain. As a long jumper, she prefers to wear clothing as light as possible. "You have no right to say what I can and can't wear," she says of the female judge. Breen tells the Guardian that her sprint briefs were the official Adidas version for 2021. (See an image here.)

  • A somewhat opposite situation emerged in regard to the Norwegian women's beach handball team, reports NBC News. The women, feeling uncomfortable competing in small bikini bottoms, played in tight fitting shorts that extended to their upper thighs (see an image here) in a match against Spain on Sunday. The following day, the European Handball Federation fined the team about $1,800 for "improper clothing."
  • The Norway Handball Federation will pay the fine on behalf of the team but made clear it supports the women, per the BBC. "We are very proud of these girls who during the European Championships raised their voices and announced that enough is enough!" The team is getting lots of support back home, including from lawmakers. "Forced bikini nonsense" is how one member of parliament described things.
  • The women had asked tournament officials for permission to wear the shorts ahead of time and went ahead with them despite being turned down. The International Handball Federation decrees that female players must wear bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg," per the Washington Post. It further dictates that the width of the sides "must be of a maximum of 10 [centimeters]," less than 4 inches.
  • The Guardian has a post summing up both controversies, and finds each ridiculous. For female athletes, "the only thing you should worry about wearing is a medal."
(More female athletes stories.)

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