"The Flip Side of Gymnastic Excellence" [Style, July 2] suffers from too much enraged fashion sense, when what it should have focused on is the fact that all clothing worn by the U.S. Olympic team is made overseas.

Now that's something to feel patriotic about.

-- David Estes

Washington

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Robin Givhan reveals the flip side of fashion commentary in her biting and stunningly vapid remarks about the attire of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams.

Does she really believe that these elite athletes' apparel has anything at all to do with fashion? Could there be any garment more purely functional than a leotard? Can she not fathom that, unlike on suburban women, stirrup pants on male gymnasts serve an important athletic purpose?

What's next from Givhan? Carping about the oh-so-out shoulder pads on NFL players or Lance Armstrong's silly tight shorts?

-- Patrick Phillips

Washington

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I was a competitive gymnast for 16 years, and I competed at the junior Olympic and Division I collegiate levels. Robin Givhan's article was insulting and ignorant.

The "Courtneys and Carlys" to whom she refers are not music box dancers who prance around the floor to entertain a crowd. They are young women who devote 30 to 40 hours a week to a sport that few people have the dedication and talent to pursue.

Competitive attire is not designed to wow the fashion critics in Milan or to survive the red-carpet criticism of Joan Rivers. It is designed to be safe and functional. Fabric anything less than skin-tight poses a risk to the athlete. The high-cut legs on competitive leotards are designed so as to not restrict movement, and as any athletic woman who has ever shopped for a swimsuit would know, high-cut styles are much more flattering to muscular shapes and "fire-hydrant bodies" than their lower-cut cousins.

"Burly" coaches become surrogate parents. One would be hard-pressed to find a gymnast who refers to his or her coach as "Coach." They are "Bela" or "Kelly" and they become a member of the athlete's family. The emotional commitment involved in the coach-athlete relationship warrants a hug every now and then. Shaquille O'Neal is a grown man who is paid millions of dollars to put a ball in a basket. Gymnasts are young, unpaid athletes competing in a sport where 20-year-olds are veterans and endorsements are scarce.

I suppose that anyone without experience in the sport would find it hard to understand that the apparel worn by gymnasts is not created to please TV audiences. But I hardly think comments such as those made in Givhan's article would ever be directed at a Spandex-clad tight end.

-- Kerri A. Simpson

Frederick

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I was eager to read Robin Givhan's article, because I thought that, for once, gymnastics was finally getting its due. But no, that was not the case.

Yes, the leotards that the athletes wear might not always rival what you find on the red carpet. But to the athletes, wearing those uniforms is an honor. I would love to see what Givhan could design for these athletes that would keep in mind safety and functionality.

When the 12 gymnasts chosen to represent the United States at the Summer Olympics step on to the floor in Athens, they will be proud to be wearing whatever they have been given. A lifelong dream for them, of wearing the red, white and blue, will finally be fulfilled.

-- Carrie Timmons

Leonardtown, Md.