Striking a blow for freedom of choice, a member of the British women’s Olympic boxing team has demanded those competing in London 2012's tournament have a choice to wear skirts or shorts.
Referring to the International Amateur Boxing Association’s (AIBA) plans to make skirts mandatory for all female competitors, European championship silver medalist Natasha Jonas has argued against such proposals,
My personal opinion is if you want to wear a skirt it should be a choice, it shouldn't be forced upon anyone.
While women have sparred in shorts ever since the sport’s 116 year ban was lifted in 1996, last year the AIBA ran a trial for skirts for women, which it wanted to "phase in for international competitions". The AIBA claimed it would distinguish the women from their male counterparts. Most teams don’t see it the same way – last week’s European Championships in Rotterdam saw just two countries, Romania and Poland, turn out in the new outfits.
Jonas’ comments mirror those of Ireland's three-time world champion Katie Taylor, who recently told the BBC,
I won't be wearing a mini-skirt. I don't even wear mini-skirts on a night out, so I definitely won't be wearing mini-skirts in the ring.
This isn’t the first time that officials have stumbled in attempting to alter women’s sporting attire. The furor brings to mind gaffe-prone FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s suggestions in 2004 to "let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball…they could, for example, have tighter shorts." The Badminton World Federation also shelved its plans to phase in skirts this year after vocal opposition.
Female fighters has gone round after round to make it to next year’s competition. Until a 2009 ruling boxing was the only Olympic sport that was male only. Having fought for so long to make it into the ring, while they await the AIBA’s final decision in January, expect them to pull no punches.
By Chris Mapleston
The London Boxing International Invitational Olympic test event takes place at ExCel this weekend with ten male and three female weight categories. The event is not open to the public.