The German women’s gymnastics team elected to wear full length bodysuits at the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers on Sunday, a decision they made to push back against the sexualisation of women in gymnastics.
The team, comprised of Sarah Voss, Pauline Schaefer-Betz, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, wore red and white full length unitards that covered their legs down to their ankles. It was a departure from the usual bikini cut leotards that female gymnasts regularly wear.
The Germans wore similar long unitards at training on Thursday, and said they may choose to continue wearing them as they progress in the Olympics.
21-year-old Sarah Voss said the team decided to wear the longer body suits to show girls and women in the sport it’s possible to wear what they feel most comfortable in.
“As you are growing up as a woman, it is quite difficult to get used to your new body in a way,” Voss said.
“We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and we show everyone that they can wear whatever they want and look amazing, feel amazing, whether it is in a long leotard or a short one.”
Voss also said the team decided they wanted to lead others to follow in their footsteps.
“We want to be a role model in any case, to make everybody have the courage to follow us,” Voss said.
The decision from the German gymnastics team comes after the sport has been tarnished by allegations of widespread sexual and physical abuse and bullying, and the conviction of sex offender Larry Nassar, for the abuse of hundreds of gymnasts in the US. The former US gymnastics team doctor is currently serving a 176 year sentence in prison.
While US gymnastics legend Simone Biles has said she prefers to wear leotards in competition, she is supportive of the German’s decision to wear longer bodysuits in gymnastics competitions.
“I stand with their decision to wear whatever they please and whatever makes them feel comfortable,” Biles said.
“So if anyone out there wants to wear a unitard or leotard, it’s totally up to you.”