Women boxers will have the option of wearing either skirts or shorts, when the sport appears for the first time at the Olympics in London’s Excel Centre in August , it was revealed at the weekend by Dr C K Wu, President of the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA).
That this decision has been reached owes much to the strength of the opposition to any suggestion of making wearing of skirts compulsory (more than 58,500 signatures so far to an online petition alone) and also to the very specific role played by Ireland’s Katie Taylor who was strongly opposed any such moves from the outset. President Wu rates Taylor very highly as a boxer and as a great role model for the sport. Indeed he specifically suggested in his conference speech tha tshe was a significant influence on the decision.
Speaking at the 5th World Conference on Women and Sport and responding to criticism from Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, the 1984 Olympic 100 metres hurdles champion, and now the Chief of Sport Performance at USA Track and Field, Wu said :
“We have never asked the women to wear skirts compulsorily”
“Our Technical and Rules Commission have had several discussions.
“Some women want to wear shorts and some want to wear skirts.
“So the decision we have made is that we shall make it optional because many boxers are undecided.”
Addressing the Conference, attended by more than 300 delegates including International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, Wu said that the issue had first come to the forefront at last year’s European Women’s Championships.
“The Polish team wore skirts,” he said.
“That immediately drew attention.
“The boxers said they responded very positively and it helped give them very easy movement.
“But we also have opposition from outstanding boxers like Ireland’s Katie Taylor, who prefers to wear shorts.
“We have many boxers who asked for shorts so the best thing to do is to let them decide individually.
“But the men have no option – they have to wear shorts!”
Dr Wu though is well aware that it was he himself who brought this issue to the fore in September 2010 (and NOT in Rotterdam 2011) when he gave his now ‘infamous’ interview to Michael Rivest of the ‘Times Union’ in which he said:
““I have heard many times, people say, ‘We can’t tell the difference between the men and the women,’ especially on TV, since they’re in the same uniforms and are wearing headgear.”
“We have a Women’s Commission that evaluated everything and they met and gave their recommendations,” he said, adding. “The uniform was presented [in Barbados] as optional.” Does this mean it will remain optional? “After we hear about its comfort and how easy it is to compete in the uniform, it may be compulsory. But we are still working on it.”
So there can be no doubt as to where all this started though it is true – and in fact of greater concern – that it was the Polish and Romanian Associations who forced their women to wear skirts in Rotterdam.
Will the Poles, Romanians and possibly others force their boxers to wear skirts in China and in London 2012? Only time will tell as it is well known that some countries lay down their own rules irrespective of what their athletes think.
At last month’s AIBA commissions meeting in Bangkok Dr Wu also revealed he had heard serious concerns expressed by several national federations who had been
“All seven of our commissions met jointly, including the women’s commission and the technical rules commission, and one issue on the agenda was about the women’s uniform,” Wu told reporters “And they are so divided. At the European women’s championships, the Polish team wore skirts they designed themselves. But Katie Taylor from Ireland does not like the skirts. And other women have said they do not like them and would like to wear the shorts. It’s divided. So it will be optional.”
Canadian Elizabeth Plank’s “petition” on change.org which appeared on SportsNewsIreland has so far attracted support from some 58,282 males and females throughout the world and it is understood that the AIBA has had a huge number of emails and faxes also against the proposals albeit a much more modest number have supported the idea. A few boxers have no objection to wearing skirts for example India’s Mary Kom and Canada’s Mary Spencer whilst there has been little support from the United States for skirts apart from flyweight Tyrieshia Douglas who at this week’s U.S Boxing trials told the Associated Press that she would wear a skirt adding :
“We’re women and women should be wearing a woman’s uniform,” Douglas said. “We need to look more feminine. Under the headgear, you don’t know if it’s a man or a woman if we don’t have any boobs. You don’t know until we take off the headgear.”
Alas for Tyrieshia she will not need now to worry about the issue as she lost to Marlen Esparza in the 48kg final at the US Olympic Trials and so will not be taking part in either the Worlds in China or in the London Olympics.