Olivia Breen: World champion para-athlete left angry after official said her shorts were ‘too revealing’

Olivia Breen
Olivia Breen is set to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo next month

Double world champion para-athlete Olivia Breen said she was left angry and speechless after being told to wear “more appropriate” shorts.

Breen, 24, says an official at the English Championships on Sunday told her briefs were “too short and revealing”.

The sprinter and long jumper said she was highlighting the incident to stop it happening to others.

“It made me feel really angry and it’s very wrong,” said Breen.

“You know they can’t comment on what we can and can’t wear.”

Breen won a world championship gold medal in the T35-38 4x100m class in 2015 and again in 2017 in the T38 long jump and has been wearing the same style of competition briefs from her sponsor throughout her career.

“They are like high-waisted bikini bottoms,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme.

“I’ve worn them for nine years, I’ve never had a problem and we should feel comfortable with what we wear.

“We want to be as light as possible when we’re competing, not having to feel heavy, and to feel comfortable.

“We should just wear what we’re entitled to wear.”

Breen, who also won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, told the programme the incident occurred after she competed in the long jump in Bedford.

“I’d just finished my competition and was thanking the officials for their help and their support and this official came up to me and said ‘can I talk to you?’ and I was like yeah, what’s the problem?

“She said ‘I think what you’re wearing is very revealing and I think you should consider buying shorts’. I didn’t know what to say I was left speechless and my first thought process was ‘are you joking?’.”

Breen believes male athletes would not face similar scrutiny or criticism but, after posting about the incident on social media, said other females have told her they have suffered similar experiences.

“I’ve never personally felt self-conscious, but yesterday made me feel very angry and obviously from the response on Instagram and Twitter that I’ve had, it has happened to a lot of young girls and athletes and it needs to change,” she added.

“I think people haven’t spoken out about it because they feel afraid and I want people to feel confident and speak out about it because it’s wrong what happened and this needs to stop happening to us.

“I’m just going to take it as far as I can. I really want to get the message out there and I obviously want to make a change in female sport so people can’t make comments again about what we can and can’t wear.”

Another British athlete, shot putter Amelia Stricker, said officials who made such “unnecessary” comments should not officiate, a point of view Breen shares.

“Yes I do very strongly {agree],” she said.

“They do an amazing job and I really appreciate their support but they can’t make comments on what we wear. They are there to do their job and help us, not by commenting on what we wear, regardless.”

An England Athletics spokesperson said: “We are aware of the post and will be investigating as a matter of urgency. The wellbeing of all participants in athletics is of the utmost importance and everyone should feel comfortable to compete and participate in the sport.”

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