The German women’s gymnastics team's nontraditional uniforms — designed to help women gymnasts feel less sexualized — made their Olympic competition debut over the weekend at the qualifying round.
The four members of the German team, Sarah Voss, Pauline Schaefer-Betz, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, sported full-length unitards on Sunday, a departure from the bikini-cut leotards usually worn by women gymnasts. They had worn them while training earlier in the week and ultimately decided to wear them while competing, as well. (They did not qualify for the finals.)
The red-and-white unitards extended to their ankles and had long sleeves with cut-out detailing.
Explaining the decision, Voss, 21, told Reuters: "As you are growing up as a woman, it is quite difficult to get used to your new body in a way. 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."
These full-length unitards are more in line with male gymnasts’ attire, which cover some part of the leg, if not the whole thing.
Another Olympic gymnast, Julie Erichsen, from Norway, praised the German team's decision. "I think it's really cool that they have the guts to stand on such a huge arena and show girls from all over the world that you can wear whatever you want," she told Reuters.
While Olympic great Simone Biles previously said in June that she wouldn't wear the unitard herself because she believes leotards that don't cover the legs make her appear taller, she "(stands) with their decision to wear whatever they please and whatever makes them feel comfortable," AP reported.
Members of the German gymnastics team sported similar unitards in April at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Basel, Switzerland. At the time, the German Gymnastics Federation tweeted that the unitards sent a message "against sexualization in gymnastics."
"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 in April.
The women’s sports uniforms has made headlines recently beyond the Olympics. Earlier this month, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing thigh-length elastic shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the sport’s Euro 2021 tournament.