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Why uniforms matter to Australian athletes headed for Tokyo Games

Jonathon Moran and Diana Jenkins, May 19, 2021 6:30PM News Corp Australia Network

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Members of the Australian surf team, spearheaded by inaugural Olympic athletes Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Julian Wilson, unveil their new name and uniform in March. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard. media_cameraMembers of the Australian surf team, spearheaded by inaugural Olympic athletes Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Julian Wilson, unveil their new name and uniform in March. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard.

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How can clothes tell stories and capture moments in history? Well, Australia’s 2020 Olympic Games uniforms have to do all that and more.

With less than 100 days to go, our athletes will be dressed to impress at the Tokyo Games in a team uniform inspired by the Japanese capital’s bustling downtown Shibuya Crossing. Designed by Australian fashion label Sportscraft, the designs were showcased* by nine athletes at this week’s launch.

“The design process was inspired by the electric lights, vibrant colours and bustling atmosphere synonymous* with Tokyo,” a spokesman said. “The angles used in the designs were inspired by Japan’s famous Shibuya Crossing intersection, along with elements of the Southern Cross.”

Olympic Uniforms Unveiled - Sportscraft media_cameraOlympic athletes pictured left to right are George Ford, Jess Fox, Safwan Khalil and Tarni Stepto, unveiling the Sportscraft Tokyo Olympic Games Uniforms in Sydney this week. Picture: Tim Hunter.

The most personal, storied and hopefully inspirational element in the uniform is one most people won’t even see: the names of Australia’s 320 Olympic Gold medallists are printed on the lining of a tailored blazer, the ‘hero’ item in the collection. Rather than standing on giants’ shoulders, this year’s Australian Olympians have them draped across their own.

Taekwondo champion Safwan Khalil has framed his uniforms from his two previous Olympics and displays them in public to keep the stories alive.

“They are up at the martial arts clubs I train at as a nice little physical trigger to remind us of what we have done and where we want to keep going,” he said. “I will probably rock this uniform for a while afterwards but it will definitely join the others.”

Olympic Uniforms Unveiled - Sportscraft media_cameraDual Olympian Safwan Khalil is off to his third Olympics and plans to frame his 2020 uniform to display with the others at martial arts clubs where he trains. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Meanwhile, Australia’s rich Indigenous Olympic heritage is being celebrated in the competition and delegation uniform, including a shirt incorporating artwork by Indigenous Olympian and artist, Paul Fleming.

The artwork, entitled ‘Walking Together’, includes footsteps representing the 52 Indigenous athletes who have competed at an Olympic Games.

“The centrepiece represents a meeting place, because the Olympics brings together people of all colours, religions and backgrounds from all over the world.

“The people surrounding the meeting place represent the people in your life who have helped you get to where you are,” Fleming said.

Australian Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 Uniform Unveiling media_cameraMaurice Longbottom during the Australian Olympic Team Tokyo 2020 uniform unveiling, in Sydney on March 31. Picture: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images.

Rugby Sevens star Maurice Longbottom of the Dharawal mob, wore the design proudly when the AOC and ASICS launched the range in March.

“It’s about the 52 Indigenous Australian Olympians whose footsteps I am looking to follow in. I want to live up to their expectations … do them proud and also represent my culture, my people, my family and my community back home.”

“I get to show the young Indigenous kids in my community, who (are) just like me, that no dream is too big, if you put in the work to get there.

“Wearing this Aboriginal artwork makes it even more special, so it will always have a place in my heart,” he said.

And as surfing debuts as an Olympic sport this year, the national surfing team was named ‘The Irukandjis’ in March for the jellyfish that is ‘deadly in the water’. Surfing Australia was generously gifted the name by the local Yirrganydji people of North Queensland, driven by the efforts of Indigenous athlete and former World Tour surfer, Soli Bailey.

Seven-time World Surf League (WSL) World Champion and Australian Olympic team member, Stephanie Gilmore said, “I really wanted us to find an awesome name for the team that incorporated* the Indigenous culture of Australia. Irukandji perfectly suits our team as we try our best to be ‘deadly in the water’ against our rivals in the Tokyo Olympics.”

Senior Ranger, Yirrganydji Land and Sea Program, Brian Singleton said the Yirrganydji people “support ‘The Irukandjis’ Australian Surf Team as they take on the world.”

NATIONAL SURF TEAM media_cameraAs surfing prepares to be inaugurated as an Olympic sport, debut Olympic athletes Stephanie Gilmore (pictured), Sally Fitzgibbons and Julian Wilson and others unveiled the national surfing team’s new name ‘The Irukandji’ and uniform in March 2021. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Indigenous artist Jasmine Craciun drew inspiration from her ancestors*, the Barkindji people, when collaborating on the uniform’s design. The organic* shapes represent fluid movement in the water and light hitting the ocean when viewed from below.

“Our name and identity are powerful forces. As surfing enters the Olympics for the first time … it was time to give our Australian team an identity that we can all rally behind,” said Layne Beachley, chairperson of Surfing Australia and seven-time world champion.

GLOSSARY

  • showcased: highlighted
  • synonymous: closely associated with or suggestive of something
  • incorporated: worked in, included
  • ancestors: those we have come from or descended from
  • organic: natural, relating to living matter and the natural world

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What famous Tokyo intersection inspired Australia’s Olympic uniform design?
  2. Which Australian fashion label designed the uniform for the opening and closing ceremonies?
  3. What is the name of the Paul Fleming artwork featured on competition and delegation uniforms and what does the name refer to?
  4. Who gifted ‘The Irukandjis’ name to Surfing Australia for use by our athletes?
  5. How long has surfing been an Olympic sport?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Design a Uniform
If you could design a new uniform for your school, what would it look like?

Create a design for a new school uniform. Write a statement explaining your design and why it’s a perfect uniform for your school.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Design and Technologies

2. Extension
What do you think about the Aussie team uniforms? Imagine that you are the Kids News fashion reporter. Write an article that explains your opinion about the uniform. Don’t forget to give plenty of details about the uniforms. Discuss good parts of it and also things that you think could be improved.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension
Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

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