Nike Explains the Design Choices for Paris Olympics Women’s Track and Field Uniforms After Concerns (Exclusive)

After fans and athletes questioned the skimpiness, Nike is emphasizing that the unitard is one of dozens of options for women

<p>Nike</p> Sha


Sha'Carri Richardson wears Nike's Team USA uniform for the 2024 Paris Olympics

After Nike received criticism for their newly-unveiled women's track and field uniforms for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, Team USA athletes and the company are pushing back, emphasizing that all competitors will have a choice of what to wear from a wide range of options.

On April 11, Nike launched their collection of uniforms in Paris, first showing a couple of the kits on mannequins and then later on Team USA runners, including Athing Mu and sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson. It was one of the uniform options on a mannequin, though — a unitard that featured a high-cut brief-style suit for women — that drew the most attention on social media.

After fans and athletes questioned the skimpiness, Nike is emphasizing that the unitard is one of dozens of options for women and that athletes are able to pick the style of uniform they prefer.

"I think it's really important that everybody understands that we offer a spectrum of styles for what athletes will feel most comfortable in, from least coverage all the way to very full coverage, and that everybody gets to choose what they want to wear," Jordana Katcher, Nike’s vice president for global sports apparel, tells PEOPLE. "Everyone has choice."

<p>Dominique Maitre/WWD via Getty </p> Team USA Uniforms

Dominique Maitre/WWD via Getty

Team USA Uniforms

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When Team USA athletes qualify for the Games, they receive a "very elaborate form" to fill out with their sizing and preferred uniform choices, Nike-sponsored marathoner Keira D'Amato, who was on the USA World Championship marathon team the last two years, tells PEOPLE.

"You could say yes to everything if you wanted to see it, but you can pick whatever items you feel most comfortable in," she says. "You can select your short length, how everything fits, and then you get a suitcase. The team last year, I think I got it about a month in advance, just full of different options. And then I brought it into my training. I practiced with it and I tried out the different styles."

<p>Nike</p> Athing Mu models a Nike Olympics uniform


Athing Mu models a Nike Olympics uniform

Katcher adds that they take in athlete feedback to determine how to cut the various styles, with some women preferring fuller coverage like D'Amato, who races in boy shorts, to others who opt for the unitard.

"It's important to know that some athletes do choose something that is slightly less covered and that is what they are most comfortable in, and that's good for them to do what they feel comfortable in and for others to not have any judgment about that," Katcher says.

"It's really important for us to understand what are the barriers to sport? What are the things that are bothering these women and are there ways that we can innovate to design for their bodies and things that are preventing them from maybe moving as freely as they want to, and deliver that in an end product."

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<p>EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty</p> Athing Mu models a Nike Olympics uniform


Athing Mu models a Nike Olympics uniform

Several of the non-Nike-sponsored athletes who initially criticized the design have also reversed course after seeing them in person this week at the U.S. Olympic Committee's media summit in New York City. Long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall was one of around a dozen track and field stars who had questioned the unitard on social media, writing last week: “Wait my hoo haa is gonna be out."

Davis-Woodhall, who is sponsored by Lululemon, said at the summit that she's happy with the design after seeing them in person.

“It was the picture that did no justice,” the 2024 World Indoor gold medalist told reporters. “I saw one [of the uniforms] today. They’re beautiful. They’re not like the picture. The cut does look a little bit different on that mannequin. They just should have had a second look with someone to choose that photo to post.”

<p>Nike</p> Anna Cockrell models a Nike Olympics uniform


Anna Cockrell models a Nike Olympics uniform

Two-time Olympic medalist sprinter Gabby Thomas echoed Davis-Woodhall's comments, saying she was “initially shocked like everybody else," when she saw the uniform on social media. But she pointed to the comments from another track and field star, Nike-sponsored Katie Moon, earlier this week where the pole vaulter pointed out that the skimpiness criticisms could hurt the athletes who decide to wear the unitard.

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<p>Dominique Maitre/WWD via Getty</p> Anna Cockrell wears the Team USA uniform

Dominique Maitre/WWD via Getty

Anna Cockrell wears the Team USA uniform

“I love competing in the brief,” Thomas, who is sponsored by New Balance, told reporters at the Summit. “I think I love wearing as little clothes as possible just because you’re sweaty, you’re being really active and moving, so I love that we have the option to wear that, but we also have the option to wear any uniform we want. We could wear the men’s uniform if we really wanted to. So I’m comfortable with what they put out there. The initial shock was warranted, but I think no one has anything to worry about.”

"All women’s bodies are different,” Davis-Woodhall added. “I’d say the same thing for men. Let’s make the uniforms for the people [who are wearing them], instead of for the views.”

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