Mental Floss

Women’s Beach Handball Players No Longer Have to Compete in Bikini-Style Bottoms

Ellen Gutoskey
Norway's Martinsen Marielle Elisabeth Mathisen mid-play during the 2018 World Cup final against Greece.
Norway's Martinsen Marielle Elisabeth Mathisen mid-play during the 2018 World Cup final against Greece. / Ilnar Tukhbatov/Epsilon/Getty Images

For some female athletes, bikini-style uniforms are ideal. Many beach volleyball players, for example, consider them a good way to keep cool on the hot sand; plus, the less clothing you have on, the less sand can get stuck in it. Track and field athletes often prefer bikini briefs simply because that’s what they’re used to.

But if you personally don’t think competing in a bikini is ideal, you shouldn’t be forced to do so—a seemingly self-evident tenet that hasn’t been reflected in the International Handball Federation’s (IHF) rule book. Historically, female beach handball players have been required to don sports bras and “bikini bottoms,” while men’s teams could wear any “not too baggy” shorts no longer than four inches above the kneecap. Over the summer, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team protested the mandate by playing in shorts, an infraction for which they were fined.

The incident drew international attention to the issue and prompted Australian activist Talitha Stone, who lives in Norway, to launch a petition calling for the IHF to update its uniform requirements. A few months and more than 61,000 signatures later—not to mention a letter signed by five European sports ministers and sent to the IHF—the organization has acquiesced. As The Daily Beast reports, the rule book will now allow female beach handball players to compete in “short tight pants with a close fit” [PDF].

It may not quite be the gender neutrality that some people were hoping for, though. As The Guardian points out, the requirements for men’s shorts didn’t change; they don’t have to wear anything “tight” or “with a close fit.” But for female handball players who’d prefer not to play in bikini bottoms, it’s definitely a welcome step in the right direction.

[h/t The Daily Beast]