Women have used their place in the Olympic Games to make a point many times over. Whether it was figure-skating champion Debi Thomas, who made a statement by trading a skirt to compete instead in a jumpsuit, or Katarina Witt's game-changing blue dress at the 1988 Olympics which led to an upgrade in figure skating dress codes, what women wear has always ruffled many feathers.
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In more recent times, the ongoing Tokyo Olympics have seen women Badminton players wearing pretty much anything they want. Amongst about 30 women who played badminton at the Games, many, including India's PV Sindhu chose to wear skorts, whereas others, including Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying, opted for shorts. Sindhu, who went on to win Silver at the Games, commented about this year’s dress choices saying, "I'm lucky that we can wear whatever we want.”
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While many women opted for dresses and skirts as well, Iran's Soraya Aghaei Hajiagha, along with her coach, wore a dress, leggings and a hijab, as she competed against China's He Bing Jiao. Iranian women's single sculler, Nazanin Malaei, was also spotted competing in hijab, long sleeves and full leggings.
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While this might make the players and women all over feel a little more liberated, it wasn’t the same a decade back when the Badminton World Federation reportedly said women athletes were required to wear skirts, instead of having a choice between wearing either a skirt or shorts. The Deputy President of the federation, Paisan Rangsikitpho, even said in a New York Times interview that it was so that the players would “look feminine” and have a “nice presentation”.
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Clearly, much has changed for the sport of Badminton, but the same cannot be said for other sports and women players. Last week the Norwegian women's beach handball team was fined €1,500 as they opted for shorts instead of bikini bottoms to compete. According to the European Handball Federation and the International Handball Federation, the fine was imposed as the team’s choice of clothing jeopardized "the ideal presentation of the sport". As per rules, players are required to wear bikini bottoms that have a maximum width of 10 centimetres and have a "close fit and cut on an upward angle."
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