GYMNASTICS/ Gymnast devises outfit showing less skin to block photo voyeurism

字号+ 作者: 来源: 2024-07-25 11:01:11 我要评论(0)

GYMNASTICS/ Gymnast devises outfit showing less skin to block photo voyeurism By KAI UCH

GYMNASTICS/ Gymnast devises outfit showing less skin to block photo voyeurism

By KAI UCHIDA/ Staff Writer

June 5, 2024 at 07:00 JST

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Photo/IllutrationAiko Sugihara performs in the artistic gymnastic competition during the NHK Trophy in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, on May 18. (Yuki Shibata)

  • Photo/Illutration

Gymnast Aiko Sugihara used to have something more troubling than scores and judges to worry about when she stepped onto the mat. 

But in women’s artistic gymnastics, where athletes conventionally wear high-cut leotards, Sugihara has designed her own less-revealing clothing option, which she has named “Aitards” (pronounced “I-tards”).

“When I competed in a high-cut outfit, I was under stress, unrelated to the competition, about whether my underwear was showing,” she said. “With that anxiety gone, I can now concentrate on the competition.”

In the sports world, there are repeated cases of athletes being victimized when they are photographed for sexual purposes and their images spread on the internet.

But athletes such as Sugihara are fighting back, as are the International Olympic Committee and various sports associations.

Sugihara, 24, has appeared in her Aitards at sporting events herself to show that it presents no obstacle to wearing in competition.

Sugihara was the only artistic gymnast who competed in an attire with the fabric extending below the crotch during the NHK Trophy, which was held from May 16 through 19.

The competition served as a final screening session for Japan’s national team for the Paris Summer Olympics.

NO LONGER SELF-CONSCIOUS

Sugihara said she once believed that high-cut attire was the only available clothing option at competitions.

She said she wasn't self-conscious about competing in high-cut wear when she was very young.

As she entered puberty, however, she began to worry about how she might appear to others, including whether her underwear and sanitary napkin were showing.

Many gymnasts wear short leggings over their leotards when they train. Sugihara sometimes wondered why they weren’t allowed to do so during competitions.

Sugihara’s images have been posted online as material for sexually suggestive topics. She has also received obscene messages on social media.

“I thought people’s inner thoughts cannot be helped but they don't have to write about them openly,” she said. “At the same time, though, I also thought matter-of-factly that I couldn’t do anything about it because I was dressed like that when I competed.”

A turning point came during the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, when members of the German national team competed in unitards, or full-length leotards that stretched to the ankle.

Sugihara said she thought that the unitards could allow the grip of someone holding her legs to slip. She realized for the first time, however, that an alternative was available.

In June last year, Sugihara set up TRyAS, a company of her own, partly to help artistic gymnastics join the ranks of major sports and partly also to provide support for gymnasts of the next generation.

A male TRyAS worker, who had never participated in artistic gymnastics, proposed making an outfit with a novel shape. He said he had heard people say that they didn’t want their children to wear leotards.

Sugihara promptly looked up the rules of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and learned that clothing for competitions was allowed to have a leg length of up to 2 centimeters below the base of the buttocks.

She also learned that gymnasts are allowed to wear near ankle-length attire but are not allowed to be in outfits of intermediate length that stretch only as far as the knees or somewhere around them.

Sugihara approached a leotard manufacturer with a proposal.

Both parties talked and worked out a new outfit design on the basis of the pattern of men’s aerobic gymnastics attire. Sugihara unveiled the new outfit during a sporting event three months after she founded her company and put the product on sale late last year.

“I didn’t want my daughter to wear leotards in the future,” the mother of a girl taking artistic gymnastics lessons said in a message to Sugihara. “Thank you for making this option available.”

“I was happy to learn that I had helped somebody, even if just one person,” Sugihara said.

She said the Aitards not only allow the wearer to perform without anxiety but also present no inconvenience, as far as she knows, during a competition because they differ little from what athletes usually wear when they train.

Sugihara withdrew, in the year following the Tokyo Games, from the front line of competition. She was feeling burned out and had lost sight of her goal. She made a comeback, however, after a year.

She said she did so partly because, as she watched sporting events as an outsider, she felt that athletes were having fun, but that wasn’t the only reason.

“I want to be a role model,” Sugihara said. “I want to tell people about this option of wearing the Aitards, which have not been known widely yet.”

ONE PLACE SHORT OF OLYMPICS

Sugihara competed in the top ranks during the NHK Trophy but ended up in fifth place. That set her one step short of being named to Japan’s national team for the Paris Olympics, and she was named an alternate.

She said, however, that the attempt was worth making.

“The opportunity allowed me to send out various messages,” Sugihara said.

PHOTO PERMIT SYSTEM

Camera voyeurism targeting athletes has been taken seriously in Japan.

In 2020, the Japanese Olympic Committee and other parties released a statement denouncing as “despicable acts” the secret photographing of athletes, misuse of their images and videos and posting of vicious content on social media.

A thirtysomething man was referred to prosecutors on suspicion of continuously photographing the lower bodies of runners during the annual Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden long-distance relay race held in January last year. 

Those actions violated Kyoto Prefecture’s ordinance against public nuisance, which bans acts of obscenity.

Fukuoka Prefecture’s ordinance for eradicating sexual violence was amended in March this year to define as “sexual violence” the act of photographing postures and body parts of people for sexual purposes, without obtaining their consent, at schools, sport facilities and in public transportation.

The Japan Gymnastics Association introduced a photography permit system starting from a sporting event of November last year.

To deter photo voyeurism, the JGA has banned, beginning in 2004, members of the public from taking photos and videos at sporting events it organizes.

The association is now selling permits for taking photos at its sporting events on the condition the applicants register their contact addresses and personal social media accounts.

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