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‘The picture did no justice’: US athletes retreat from criticism of ‘hoo haa’ uniform

In Sports
April 17, 2024
<span>Tara Davis-Woodhall’s comments on Team USA’s Olympic uniforms attracted worldwide attention. </span><span>Photograph: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images for the USOPC</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/kX3Gwd8SYOCSAmw1VyZa9w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/cced5dcfc567ee3f7e07508f805ab808″ data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/kX3Gwd8SYOCSAmw1VyZa9w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/cced5dcfc567ee3f7e07508f805ab808″><button class=

Tara Davis-Woodhall’s comments on Team USA’s Olympic uniforms attracted worldwide attention. Photograph: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images for the USOPC

In the moments before she fired off the Instagram comment heard around the world, Tara Davis-Woodhall could hardly believe her eyes.

The American long jumper and world silver medalist had just seen a photograph of one of Nike’s Team USA uniforms for this summer’s Games, a high-cut leotard barely covering the bikini line that was unveiled at a launch event in Paris last week. The running publication Citius Mag had posted an image of the slinky uniform on a female mannequin alongside a male one-piece kit with longer legs.

As the side-by-side comparison prompted an online furore over sexism in elite sport, Davis-Woodhall couldn’t help but enter the fray.

Related: Nike’s ‘hoo haa’ Olympic uniforms reveal everything, including sexism in sport | Melissa Jacobs

“Wait my hoo haa is gonna be out,” she commented, joining a chorus of athletes who hammered the company’s apparent decision to prioritize skimpiness over function. In response, Nike said female runners at the Games will not be limited to the high-cut leotard and that the new line offers nearly 50 styles to choose from, including shorts.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Team USA media summit in midtown Manhattan, Davis-Woodhall was one of several US Olympians who attributed the backlash to the photograph.

“It was the picture that did no justice,” the Texas native said. “I saw one [of the uniforms] today. They’re beautiful. They’re not like the picture. The cut does look a little bit different on that mannequin. They just should have had a second look with someone to choose that photo to post.”

Gabby Thomas, the Atlanta-born sprinter who took 200m bronze and 4x100m silver in Tokyo, was “initially shocked like everybody else” after seeing the uniform on the mannequin that quickly went viral.

But Thomas said that she felt more comfortable after seeing US pole vaulter Katie Moon’s impassioned defense on social media, which stated that criticism ultimately attacks the athletes who may decide to wear it. “The point is we DO have the choice of what to wear, and whether we feel the best in a potato sack or a bathing suit during competitions, we should support the autonomy,” the Nike-sponsored Moon wrote.

“I love competing in the brief,” Thomas said on Tuesday. “I think I love wearing as little clothes as possible just because you’re sweaty, you’re being really active and moving, so I love that we have the option to wear that, but we also have the option to wear any uniform we want. We could wear the men’s uniform if we really wanted to. So I’m comfortable with what they put out there. The initial shock was warranted, but I think no one has anything to worry about.”

Nike issued a statement quoting executive John Hoke as saying the company worked “directly with athletes throughout every stage of the design process”, a claim Thomas vouched for.

“I remember they had a little area where athletes could try things on and check it out, give their feedback,” Thomas said. “Athletes were definitely consulted on the making of the uniform. That’s why I think everyone was a little shocked when they saw the photo because athletes wouldn’t have signed off on how that looked, but it doesn’t look like that in person.”

Fiona O’Keeffe, who booked her ticket to Paris in February when she smashed the women’s US Olympic marathon trials record in her debut at the distance, said that she’s unconcerned about the uniforms despite not having seen them in person yet.

“I believe team processing for the marathon happens at the US trials as well because we’re considered part of track and field,” she said on Tuesday. “I haven’t tried it on yet, but I’m sure there are enough options where there will be something that works.”

Davis-Woodhall agreed: “All women’s bodies are different,” she said. “I’d say the same thing for men. Let’s make the uniforms for the people [who are wearing them], instead of for the views.”

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