British pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw admits her Olympic medal dream was almost derailed by the kit she was handed for Tokyo 2020.
While male vaulters were set to compete in Lycra shorts and vests or T-shirts, Bradshaw revealed to The Telegraph that she was presented with bikini-style pants and crop tops, or a swimming-style alternative.
“In my head, I was panicking,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to the most important competition of my life and not feel comfortable because I was worried about what I would be wearing.”
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Bradshaw, having faced appalling trolling on social media throughout her career, hit back after wondering why she had to reveal her body to compete at an Olympic Games.
The 29-year-old raised her concerns with Team GB, who she commended on social media after they agreed to modify an all-in-one rowing kit for her.
It had the desired effect as Bradshaw ended her wait for a major global outdoor medal by taking bronze in Japan, ditching her tag as British athletics’ nearly woman in the process. It was the first pole vault medal by any British athlete at a Games.
Bradshaw says her experiences with trolls on social media will leave her struggling "with body-image issues for the rest of my life", but said she was speaking out in the hope it encouraged other female athletes to request more modest clothing if they desired.
Holly Bradshaw at Tokyo 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
“The backlash I got on Twitter as a young athlete really affected me,” she continued, recalling the reaction when she won bronze at the World Junior Championships in 2010.
“As a female athlete, it seems that if they can see your abs, you’re ‘athletic’. If anyone looks at your belly and you don’t have abs, you’re deemed out of shape, it doesn’t matter what the rest of you looks like.
“I’d just jumped the third all-time highest in the world and strangers were calling me fat and saying I’m out of shape, I’m unathletic, I’m unattractive. It was so overwhelming as a 19-year-old to be shamed in that way in public.”
She added: “I can talk about it openly now, but I know I will struggle with body-image issues for the rest of my life.”
Bradshaw also won bronze at the 2012 World Indoor Championships and 2018 European Championships.
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