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British boxers back skirts to be individual choice

posted 23 Nov 2011, 07:19 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 23 Nov 2011, 07:19 ]

British boxers weigh into the row surrounding women's boxing and the wearing of skirts at next year's Olympics, saying the decision should be an individual one and not forced by officials.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (NOVEMBER 23, 2011) (REUTERS) - British lightweight boxer Natasha Jones on Wednesday (November 23) called on the sports governing body to hand the power back to women when deciding on the attire at next year's Olympic Games.

The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) will make a decision in January on whether it will be mandatory for women to wear a skirt in favour of the traditional shorts when they step into the ring in London.

The controversy has sparked widespread debate and it is threatening to overshadow women's boxing's debut at the Olympics.

Jones won a silver medal at the European Championships and is expected to be among the Great Britain contingent contesting the medals at a home Games.

"My personal opinion is if you want to wear a skirt it should be a choice, it shouldn't be forced upon anyone," Jones told Reuters after a short sparring session at London's Excel Centre, the venue for boxing, table tennis and fencing at the Games.

"But I don't make the rules and if it's a rule, the same as with the gum shield, the same as with the head guard, then that's a rule, you've got to abide by it but I'd prefer to wear shorts."

AIBA had justified their stance on women's skirts by saying they wanted to differentiate men's and women's boxing so fans could tell the two apart.

It is an argument that has been widely condemned with AIBA officials accused of sexism.

Jones believed that it was in the sports interests to let its competitors choose their attire to ensure maximum performance.

"People will debate whether it's practical or not. I just don't feel comfortable and I think that's important to let you feel comfortable and relaxed when you get in the ring," she said.

"And for all those boxers who don't feel comfortable, it should be an option that they can wear shorts if they like."

Jones found support from her compatriot Callum Smith, a middleweight men's boxer who harbours his own London Olympics ambitions.

"I spoke to some of the girls and I believe some of them aren't that happy about it. But I think the decision's been made and we'll have to wait and see what happens, what will be will be," Jones said.

"But I think they should get to choose really. If they want to wear them they can but if they prefer shorts, they should be given the choice," he added.