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What the fashion choices of Olympics female athletes say

More women are speaking out and taking action when it comes to the right to choose what to wear during the competition

Pauline Schaefer-Betz, of Germany during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo.
Pauline Schaefer-Betz, of Germany during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo. (AP)

Female athletes have fought long and hard for the right to choose what they wear when they compete at the Olympics, and at the Tokyo Games more and more athletes and fans are speaking out and taking action.

Of the more than 30 women who played badminton on Wednesday, including India's P.V. Sindhu and Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying, about two-thirds wore shorts, while others were clad in skorts, dresses and skirts, and one wore a hijab, reports Reuters.

"I'm lucky that we can wear whatever we want," said Sindhu, the Rio Olympics women's singles silver medalist who wore one of her blue dresses when she defeated Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi 21-9, 21-16.

Iran's Soraya Aghaei Hajiagha, along with her coach, wore a dress, leggings and a hijab in her match with China's He Bing Jiao. Skirts and skorts - loose-fitting shorts that look like skirts from the front - were also a popular choice among players including Belgium's Lianne Tan and Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, according to the Reuters report.

On Sunday, the German women's gymnastics team wore full-body suits in qualifications, hoping to promote freedom of choice and encourage women to wear what makes them feel comfortable.

But the Norwegian women's beach handball team were fined 1,500 euros last week for wearing shorts rather than bikini bottoms and jeopardizing "the ideal presentation of the sport", according to the European Handball Federation and the International Handball Federation.

Rules state that the bikini bottoms must be a maximum width of 10cm and have a "close fit and cut on an upward angle."

About a decade ago, ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, some officials at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) drew fire because of similar rule saying women had to wear skirts to make the sport more "feminine" and "attractive" to fans and sponsors. That rule was scrapped prior to the Games, however.

"In hindsight, we went around the wrong way, but we've learned from that and so have our manufacturers," said Nora Perry, two-time world champion and a council member of the BWF, whose suppliers include Adidas and Yonex.

"Yonex have embraced it because there are a lot of Koreans and Chinese girls who don't want to wear skirts."

Perry, who has over 75 international titles in individual competition, said that when she played in the 80s, the fashion was to wear skirts and dresses with "frilly things underneath".

"It was nice that the women's voices were heard on that," British player Kirsty Gilmour said, "I personally don't feel comfortable in a skirt so I like the choice of short shorts, long shorts; Tai Tzu Ying likes her tops sleeveless."

"We're lucky we don't feel pressure on how we should look."

American gymnastics Simone Biles, meanwhile, withdrew from Thursday's all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn't mentally ready, reports AP.

Biles spent a portion of Wednesday evening watching American teammates Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the men's all-around finals. Mikulak, a three-time Olympian, praised Biles' decision.

"We've had some conversations (and) she seems like she's doing what's best for her," Mikulak said.

"It's awesome to see that she's gotten to go against the pressure of society and do what's best for herself."

The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as possibly the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.

She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders.

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