- Gymnasts are starting to wear body suits to stand up against the sexualization of athletes.
- Three German athletes wore the suits at last week’s European Championships.
- Sarah Voss says she wants to be a role model for others who “don’t feel very safe in every situation.”
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German gymnasts wore full body suits at last week’s European Championships in Switzerland as a way of making a stance against the “sexualization” of the sport’s female athletes.
Sarah Voss, one of three who competed in the outfit during the women’s all-around final on Friday, says she wants to be a “role model for young gymnasts who don’t feel very safe in every situation.”
Teammates Kim Bui and Elisabeth Seitz also wore the full suits alongside Voss at the competition, which was held in the city of Basel.
“To do splits and jumps, sometimes the leotards are not covering everything, sometimes they slip and that’s why we invented a new form of leotard so that everyone feels safe around competitions and training,” Voss told the BBC.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) does allow competitors to wear unitards, however they had previously only been worn by athletes for religious regions.
“She may wear complete leg coverings of the same color as that of the leotard; under or on top of the leotard,” the FIG rulebook states.
FIG rules also state that any attire “must be of elegant design.”
Speaking to the BBC, Voss said that competing in long legged attire can allow gymnasts not to feel distracted and unsafe while in competitions, which she thinks could keep some young women in the sport in future.
“Every time you don’t feel safe it’s distracting you from what you want to perform. I think that feeling safe and not thinking about what other people can or cannot see is quite relieving when you can compete like that,” she added.
“Some girls quit this beautiful sport [because of having to wear leotards] so that is why this is a great option for everyone to stay in the sport they love and don’t think about anything else about their body — just about their performance.”
After Voss and her teammates’ appearances in Switzerland, the German federation (DTB), per the BBC, released a statement of support in which it said its team was making a point against “sexualization in gymnastics” — a pertinent issue given the sport’s history of sexual abuse.
In 2018, former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 265 minors dating back to 1993 and given a 175-year prison sentence.
John Geddert, who was head coach of the women’s gymnastics team in 2012 and worked closely with Nassar, was charged with sexual assault and human trafficking in February of this year.
On the day charges against him were publicly announced, Geddert died by suicide.
British-Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis says the bodysuits worn by the German athletes would give the sport’s female competitors their “power of choice back.”
“I think it’s amazing,” Francis told the BBC. “I feel empowered that we’ve got this option where we can choose to cover up.”