Both of Team USA’s women’s beach volleyball teams have been on something of a hot streak, beating the powerhouse team from Switzerland in a close contest and besting China.
Unfortunately, team Sweat and Fendrick just lost to Russia in a close and frustrating match.
But the star of America’s other beach volleyball team — the one who has already won gold in previous Olympic games — is undoubtedly Kerri Walsh Jennings, who is now looking for a fourth consecutive gold medal.
One thing you’ll notice about Walsh Jennings, and the rest of our beach volleyball team, is that they continue to wear bikinis while participating in the event:
Why is this a big deal?
Well, bikinis used to be mandatory for female beach volleyball players.
CNN commented in 1999 that the ruling was drafted by the International Volleyball Federation in order to create the right “atmosphere”:
“Beach volleyball is played on the beach, so swimsuits are in keeping with the sun and fun atmosphere.”
Not all countries agreed, however.
Australia, for instance, published a fact sheet on “sexploitation” in sports, in which they took the federation to task:
“Women’s beach volleyball, on the other hand, has introduced uniforms intentionally to focus attention on the athletes’ bodies rather than for any technological, practical or performance-enhancing reasons.”
Then, several years ago, the rule was finally eliminated, so as to better accommodate women from different cultures and religions.
Look at this photo of a bikini-clad German player facing off against a fully clothed Egyptian player.
Other countries may not be as extreme as Egypt, but many teams have adopted shorts and tops instead of actual bikinis.
America, however, will have none of that.
Members of our beach volleyball team have offered up four reasons why they won’t be changing up their dress code, and will instead compete in skintight bikinis.
Beach volleyball players have been wearing bikinis since the sport was originally included in the Olympic Games, back in 1996.
U.S. gold medalist Misty May-Treanor spoke to Slate about the power tradition had on their decision:
“We’re staying in our [bikinis]”
To each his own.
If you get down to it, it’s about the sport and not what we’re wearing,”
In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2. American Pride
These athletes grew up in America, many in California, and had ready access to our wonderful beaches.
U.S. team member Jen Kessy broke it all down in an interview with Daily Mail:
“We’re not uncomfortable in our bikinis.
Growing up in Southern California, that’s what you wear from when you’re a little kid to now in the summertime.”
3. Pride in their appearance
Olympians work hard to achieve their goals, training throughout the day for years on end.
They have reached peak physical perfection.
U.S. team member Misty May-Treanor is not ashamed of her body and essentially wants to tell the haters to stuff it:
“I grew up on the beach, grew up in a bikini,” she said.
“What you see is what you get.”
“There’s no airbrushing.”
4. Comfort (and sand royally sucks)
One of the key points of beach volleyball is that it takes place on a, well, beach.
That means sand, and lots of it.
Clothing with more pockets and surface area retains sand, which can be quite uncomfortable.
Jen Kessy spoke to New York Post about the decision to wear bikinis, based on comfort:
“This is the most comfortable thing for us to wear,” she said.
We can style our bikinis however we want. They can be bigger or smaller.
If it is cold, we will put clothes on. But we won’t be playing in shorts.
For us, that’s not comfortable. You get sand everywhere in the pockets.”
However, despite their choice to remain in bikinis, these athletes support other teams if they decide to cover up.
Jen Kessy said, “We want women of all different religions to be able to play our sport.”
Even though they lost to Russia, the team has showed spirit, guts and courage. Those are all staples of life in America.