German Gymnasts Share Powerful Reason They're Competing in Full-Coverage Bodysuits Instead of Leotards

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Lindsay Weinberg
·3 min read
German Gymnasts Share Powerful Reason They're Competing in Full-Coverage Bodysuits Instead of Leotards
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Three German gymnasts are raising the bar for how women are treated in their sport, starting with the uniforms.

Sarah Voss broke away from traditional leotards during her performance at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships last week. The forward-thinking athlete instead opted for a full-body suit with long sleeves and pants for her routine, which took place in Basel, Switzerland.

According to the BBC, the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) said the gymnasts took a stand against "sexualisation in gymnastics" with the new looks, which it believes can help prevent sexual abuse within the female-centric sport. The outlet notes that DTB rules state that gymnasts can wear a "one-piece leotard with full-length legs—hip to ankle."

Voss, 21, said, "We hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example."

As she told Germany's national public television broadcaster, ZDF, "We, women, all want to feel good in our skin. In the sport of gymnastics it gets harder and harder as you grow out of your child's body. As a little girl I didn't see the tight gym outfits as such a big deal. But when puberty began, when my period came, I began feeling increasingly uncomfortable."

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Two teammates—Kim Bui, 32, and Elisabeth Seitz, 27—followed in her footsteps on Friday, April 23, per BBC. Bui first performed in a leotard two days prior, but decided to take a stand as a team by wearing a full-coverage bodysuit on Friday, according to the outlet.

Sarah Voss, European Artistic Gymnastics Championships
Sarah Voss, European Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Bui expressed her pride on Instagram, writing, "I‘m very proud of us! We want to encourage all gymnasts around the world to be able to wear this if they want to feel better! It should be a gymnast‘s choice to wear what's she (or he) feels comfortable with! Long legs leotards can also look aesthetically pleasing!"

Seitz said the full-coverage look meant she had one less thing to worry about, because it was less likely that she would be "revealing anything by accident," as the BBC put it. She added that the teammates wore the full-length bodysuits in practice, and some then decided they might as well wear them during the competition, too.

On social media, Seitz wrote in German that they wanted to "set an example" by wearing a new type of suit. She feels it can help gymnasts that might "feel uncomfortable or even sexualized" in normal uniforms. "Because, in our opinion, every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable," she wrote.

Kim Bui, 2021 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships
Kim Bui, 2021 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Voss later reflected on the new attire on an Instagram post, writing in German that she was proud to debut the team's heartfelt "project," adding, "Feel good and still look elegant, why not?"

Other world-class gymnasts are loving the idea. Canadian gymnast and Olympian Ellie Black called the looks "amazing," while Australian gymnast Georgia Godwin commented, "Love this! Congrats Sarah!!"

The project comes three years after former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for sexually abusing girls, in addition to his previous 60-year sentence for child pornography crimes. In February 2021, charges of sexual assault and human trafficking were filed against former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert, shortly before he died by suicide.