Olympic Uniforms: Less Clothing Means Better Results

With their toned bodies and sun-kissed skin, beach volleyball players have more to show off than their lightning quick serves and powerful blocks. Especially if the players are women.

Beach volleyball is one of the most glaring examples of uniform discrepancy, with men and women wearing strikingly different outfits to play the same sport.

Men jump and dive into the sand wearing loose-fitting tank tops and shorts that hit mid-thigh. Women wear bikinis, the kind that make waxing oh-so-crucial.

In gymnastics, women wear leg-baring leotards while their male counterparts switch between loose shorts and snug pants.

And female runners often wear spandex tops and shorts, if not a bikini-type uniform, while men wear shorts that are either loose or spandex.

But, in general, there are few, if any, complaints from the athletes whose Olympics uniforms are typically governed by their sports' international federations.

Fabrizio Rossini, the press officer for the Federation Internationale de Volleyball, said female beach volleyball players have the option of playing in a one-piece uniform, but most prefer the bikinis. The federation is the international governing body for Olympics volleyball.

Beach volleyball has reached more and more people since debuting at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, which has led to some comments from spectators about the bikinis.

"It's a very tough sport," Rossini said via e-mail. "Only the best athletes in the world can perform at this level, playing more than one hour, running and jumping on a complicated surface like the sand, under strong wind, heavy rain or the hottest conditions. If they didn't like their uniforms, the FIVB would have received tons of complaints for them, which is not the case."

Sand Where the Sun Don't Shine

Holly McPeak, a three-time Olympics beach volleyball player and winner of the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens games, said she'd pick the bikini over the one-piece every time.

"It's not even close," she said. "There's so many reasons for it."

Olympic Beach Volleyball: Women Prefer Bikinis

Not only are they more comfortable, the bikinis allow for a greater range of motion. One-pieces also have the unfortunate side effect of trapping sand where it doesn't belong.

"When you dive, the sand goes down the top and collects in the bottom," McPeak, 39, said.

She wore a one-piece at the request of her sponsor at a tournament in the mid-1990s. "It looked great on TV, but it was not the most comfortable thing," she said.

McPeak grew up playing beach volleyball in her native Manhattan Beach, Calif. She has played professionally since 1991 and has racked up 72 tournament wins.

"That's how we spend all of our summers," she said. "It's a way of life here."

And the uniforms reflect the history of the sport: Men and women traditionally play beach volleyball in their swimsuits. The federation-sanctioned, competition suits, she said, cover more than a traditional bikini.

McPeak said most of the women on the AVP Crocs Tour, which she plays on, wear bikinis a lot smaller than those worn at the Olympics. And men on the AVP Tour typically don't wear a shirt, which McPeak said is a welcome change from FIBV regulations.

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