Story at a glance

  • The German women's gymnastics team has adopted unitards as a uniform in major international competitions.
  • The team wore the unitards during the Tokyo Olympics as part of their ongoing stand against the sexualization of female athletes.
  • Sexual abuse is alarmingly rampant in gymnastics, a sport that engages girls from a young age.

While the German women's gymnastics team didn't qualify for the finals at the Tokyo Olympics, they still made a statement in unitards that stretched to their ankles as they took the world stage. 

“We sat together today and said, OK, we want to have a big competition,” German athlete Sarah Voss told The Associated Press. “We want to feel amazing, we want to show everyone that we look amazing.”  

The unitards comply with the wardrobe rules of the International Gymnastics Federation, but not all female athletes are as lucky. Just last week, the European Handball Federation (EHF) issued fines against the Norwegian women's beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms.  


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"The symbol applies to all gymnasts who may feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal suits. Because, in our opinion, every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable - and then also do gymnastics," said gymnast Elisabeth Seitz on Instagram in April, when the team debuted the uniform during the European Championships. 

The German federation endorsed the stand against "sexualization in gymnastics," especially considering the problem of sexual abuse in a sport that many girls participate in from a young age. The Tokyo Olympics are the first since U.S. Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of child pornography and several counts of sexual assault of minors, including team USA gymnasts.


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"Proud and happy to be part of this project! We look forward to being a pioneer or inspiration for younger athletes with this idea, so that they too can feel comfortable in their sport in the future," said Voss at the time. 


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Published on Jul 26, 2021