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LONDON (Reuters) - Competitors in the first Olympic women's boxing tournament next year should not be forced to wear skirts, a member of the British team said on Wednesday.
The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) is discussing proposals for women to be kitted out in skirts rather than shorts at the London Games -- an idea which has not gone down well with those likely to be involved.
"My personal opinion is if you want to wear a skirt it should be a choice, it shouldn't be forced upon anyone," lightweight Natasha Jones, who won a silver medal at the European Championships, told Reuters at the ExCel Center which is hosting the Olympic test event this week.
"But I don't make the rules and if it's a rule, the same as with the gum shield, the same as with the head guard, then that's a rule, you've got to abide by it but I'd prefer to wear shorts.
"People will debate whether it's practical or not. I just don't feel comfortable and I think that's important to let you feel comfortable and relaxed when you get in the ring."
The AIBA is expected to announce in January whether it will be mandatory for the competitors to wear skirts when women's boxing makes its debut at the Olympics where three gold medals will be on offer.
Jones found support from her compatriot Callum Smith, a middleweight hoping to make the British men's team.
"I think they should get to choose really. If they want to wear them they can but if they prefer shorts, they should be given the choice," he said.
An AIBA spokesman said: "It has never been AIBA's intention to make skirts compulsory for women's boxers.
"We are gathering opinions from the boxing world but without anticipating too much on next January's ... meeting, skirts will remain optional.
"We want women's boxers to be as much comfortable as they can, no matter if it's with a short or a skirt."
Competitors from 21 nations are involved in this week's test event at ExCel. The exhibition center, built in 2000 and revamped three years ago, will be home to seven sports during the July 27-August 12 Games.
As well as boxing it will host table tennis, weightlifting, taekwondo, fencing, judo and wrestling -- all of which will hold test events there over the next two weeks.
Additional reporting by Tom Bartlett; Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ian Ransom