Norway’s women’s beach handball team has been slapped with a €1,500 (£1,300) fine after the European Handball Federation got its knickers in a twist because they refused to wear bikini bottoms in a match.
Instead, the players competed in non-regulation shorts in their bronze-medal match loss to Spain at the European Beach Handball Championship in Bulgaria on Sunday. International Handball Federation’s (IHF) rules state ‘female athletes must wear bikini bottoms’ and that these must have ‘a close fit’, be ‘cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg’ and a side depth of no more than 10cm.
The fine has been branded ‘completely ridiculous’ by Norway’s Minister for Culture and Sports, with the team receiving a great deal of support both in their home country and internationally.
Their issue with wearing the itsy bitsy bottoms – also widely worn by beach volleyball players, but not on a compulsory basis since 2012 – was that they make them feel uncomfortable – especially during their time of the month – and unnecessarily sexualised.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Team GB Paralympian Olivia Breen revealed she was left ‘speechless’ after a female official said her Adidas running briefs she’s worn to compete in for years were ‘too short and inappropriate’ for competition, and said other athletes had been left in tears by similar comments.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics it’s ignited a fierce debate on the rules surrounding attire for competitions.
For a sport like beach volleyball or handball that involves ducking and diving on sand, usually in warm weather, are bikini bottoms simply a more practical and comfortable option than shorts? FEMAIL reporter Hayley Richardson decided to put it to the test.
For a sport that involves ducking and diving on sand, usually in warm weather, are bikini bottoms simply a more practical and comfortable option than shorts? FEMAIL reporter Hayley Richardson decided to put it to the test
Norway’s beach handball team was fined £1,300 after the players refused to wear bikini bottoms in a European Championship match, instead competing in non-regulation shorts
The Norwegian women’s team (pictured in 2017 wearing bikini bottoms) decided to ditch the revealing briefs because they felt ‘overly sexualised’. Two-time Team GB Paralympian Olivia Breen has revealed she was left ‘speechless’ after being told her sprinting briefs were ‘too short and inappropriate’. Pictured, Olivia wearing the same jersey and briefs at another event last month (right)
Hayley tested out the bikini bottoms against lycra shorts – like those worn by the Norwegian handball team – and knicker shorts to see how they fared on the sand
Personally, I’m a less-is-more kinda gal when it comes to working out gear. Even in the middle of winter I’d go for a run in shorts in favour of leggings. I just find less clothing more comfortable – it avoids the dreaded chafe and reduces the sweat factor considerably.
But it’s a matter of choice – as it should be, in my opinion, when it comes to wearing bikini bottoms or shorts to compete in a sport like beach handball. The most important thing should surely be that the athlete feels comfortable.
I can see why the players felt ‘sexualised’ in the cheeky briefs, but there must be some merit to them – after all, German beach volleyball stars Karla Borger and Julia Sude threatened to boycott a tournament in Qatar earlier this year because players were forbidden from wearing bikinis (which they called their ‘work clothes’) on court.
Being a beach volleyball virgin, I was intrigued to see whether shorts or briefs made a difference to my game – and in all honesty, it did.
Hayley felt the shorts were more constrictive while playing beach volleyball, and accumulated more sand than the bikini briefs
Compared to the shorts, the bikini briefs stayed in place pretty well, requiring minimal adjustment and accumulating far less sand as Hayley ducked and dived
It’s worth noting that if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy that gritty, frazzled feeling after a full day at the beach (gosh, who remembers those?) then beach volleyball and beach handball aren’t the sports for you.
After just a few minutes of (attempting to) bash the ball over the net and diving for a couple of passes, I was covered in sand. It didn’t help that it was one of the hottest days of the year, so even the gentlest amount of physical activity brought me out in a sweat, which the sand then stuck to like glue.
That’s the main reason why I felt the bikini bottoms were a much better option than the shorts. Peeling off the tight lycra material from my legs was royally unpleasant, and doing so left a small beach in the footwell of my car (the location for my rather un-glamorous quick change).
While playing I also felt less comfortable in the shorts; despite them being pretty snug, they still rode up my legs, meaning I had to pause between shots to de-wedgie and yank them back down my thighs.
Hayley said she felt less comfortable in the shorts than the bikini bottoms, as despite them being pretty snug, they still rode up her legs, meaning she had to pause between shots to ‘de-wedgie’
Meanwhile the bikini briefs stayed in place pretty well, requiring minimal adjustment and accumulating far less sand as I ducked and dived. I felt freer, more agile and able to put more concentration into the game.
If it wasn’t such a hot day I may have felt a bit more self-conscious stripping down to my briefs beside the court, but I suspect the few passersby who were wearing considerably more clothes than me probably felt a little envious. I also think most people probably associate ‘beach’ sports with beachwear, so it didn’t feel inappropriate.
I also tried playing in what I considered to be a halfway house – knicker shorts, which most millennials probably remember wearing to maintain their modesty underneath a hockey or netball skirt at school.
Again, these fared much better than the shorts when it came to staying in situ, but I couldn’t help but feel they were less flattering than the bikini briefs (though they did cover up more of my bum, which was a win).
‘If I was to rank all three bottoms out of five stars, I’d give the shorts a score of two, the knicker shorts a three and the bikini briefs a five. For me, practicality outweighed principles,’ said Hayley
Hayley also tried playing in what she considered to be a halfway house – knicker shorts, left, which most millennials probably remember wearing to maintain our modesty underneath a hockey or netball skirt at school
Hayley felt the knicker shorts looked less flattering than the bikini briefs but they did conceal more of her bottom which was a plus
It’s worth noting that if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy that slightly gritty, frazzled feeling after a full day at the beach (gosh, who remembers those?) then beach volleyball and beach handball aren’t the sports for you
If I was to rank all three bottoms out of five stars, I’d give the shorts a score of two, the knicker shorts a three and the bikini briefs a five. For me, practicality outweighed principles.
But what about other sports? I decided to see how my beach volleyball attire fared for a game of tennis, football, netball and hockey.
For the latter, the bikini bottoms were a big no-no. Anyone who’s ever played hockey will know you spend most of it bent over your stick, so I felt very self-conscious. I also didn’t fancy an astro-turf burn on my bum if I took a tumble.
There’s a lot of running involved in hockey, so the shorts were a definite winner – I expect after a while the bikini briefs would begin to chafe between your legs (ouch).
Hayley said the bikini bottoms were a big no-no for hockey. Anyone who’s ever played hockey will know you spend most of it bent over your stick, so she felt very self-conscious
The bikini briefs proved unsuitable for both hockey and football, down to the amount of running and bending over required
The shorts felt much more practical for football, and attracted far less bewildered looks from passersby in the park
I also felt considerably under-dressed playing footy in bikini bottoms. Not only did I attract a few strange looks from bemused dog walkers in the park, but the motion of kicking the ball caused the briefs to scandalously sneak up between my cheeks.
I should also point out that simply wearing a sports bra on your top half for football isn’t the most practical idea, as trying to chest the ball down left a stinging sensation on my increasingly sunburnt skin.
Darting across the tennis and the netball courts also proved problematic for the bikini briefs – and the lycra shorts to be fair. Though by this point in the day the temperature had risen considerably and I was glad to be wearing few clothes, bending down in the bikini bottoms to receive my opponent’s serve was hideously awkward.
I think the likes of Serena Williams and Tracey Neville have got it right with the skirt (accompanied by a trusty pair of knicker shorts…).
Darting across the tennis and the netball courts also proved problematic for the bikini briefs (left), and the lycra shorts (right)
For tennis and netball, Hayley said the likes of Serena Williams and Tracey Neville have got it right with a skirt (accompanied by a trusty pair of knicker shorts)
Playing tennis in the bikini bottoms felt rather weird – especially when bending down to prepare to receive an opponent’s serve (left)