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See These Olympic Gymnasts' New Uniform, a Protest Against Sexualization

The new uniform is unlike any to ever be worn by women's Olympic gymnasts.

Of course, the Olympics have come a long way since they began back in 1896. As times change, the Games need to change with it, but that's not always the case. Recently, one Olympic women's gymnastics team took matters into their own hands, sporting uniforms that they felt more comfortable in as a protest against the sexualization women and girls in the sport often face. To see the groundbreaking Olympic gymnastics uniform one team will be wearing at the Games this year, read on.

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The German Olympic gymnastics team will be wearing unitards instead of leotards.

Olympic spectators have grown used to seeing women gymnasts in long-sleeved leotards, leaving their legs bare. However, this year, the German Olympic gymnastics team—compromised of Kim Bui, Pauline Schäfer, Elisabeth Seitz, and Sarah Voss—will be sporting unitards, opting for bare arms and covered legs.

The groundbreaking new uniform has been making headlines since the women revealed their new look on Instagram after a practice session on July 22.

According to Team USA, "bodysuits have been permitted competition attire in international gymnastics competitions for several years, though the vast majority of female gymnasts opt to wear leotards instead." They note on their website in a June 2021 post that Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan wore a unitard at a 2019 world cup event, and Jana Elkeky of Qatar wore a bodysuit that covered her thighs at the 2018 world championships.

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The German athletes began testing out unitards earlier this year as a way of protesting "sexualization in gymnastics."

Sarah Voss
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

In April, during the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Voss debuted a full bodysuit, and soon after, a handful of her teammates joined her. Before this, the BBC reports, women and girls like Nekrasova and Elkeky had only worn bodysuits in international competitions for religious reasons, but they've never done so at the Olympics. The German Federation (DTB) told the BBC that its gymnasts were making the change in order to take a stand against "sexualization in gymnastics."

They added that the issue had become increasingly pressing to try to prevent sexual abuse, a major topic in the sport, particularly in the U.S. where former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted as many as 265 young women and girls, disguising the abuse as medical treatment. That includes the entirety of the 2012 Olympic team and four of the five members of the 2016 team, including 2020 superstar Simone Biles. He is currently serving a de facto life sentence without parole.

In Feb. 2021, former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert, who many allege was aware of Nassar's crimes, was faced with charges of sexual assault and human trafficking. Geddert soon thereafter died by suicide. Similarly, Indianapolis gymnastics coach Marvin Sharp, who was accused of molesting a 14-year-old gymnast, also died by suicide in jail in 2015. Sharp had been an Olympic coach for USA Gymnastics in Indianapolis in 2008. He had coached Olympians Bridget Sloan and Samantha Peszek, who were on the women's gymnastics team that won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics that year.

The German gymnasts hope to lead by example.


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A post shared by Kim Bui (@_kim.bui_)

The BBC reports that in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, German gymnast Voss explained that as she got older, she felt increasingly more uncomfortable in the standard leotard. "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," said Voss. "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."

Voss told BBC: "We hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example."

Other members of the team have been sharing photos of the new uniform, with Bui posting a photo of the gymnasts in their "beautiful unitards" on July 22.

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Team USA gymnasts like Simone Biles have supported the new look.

Simone Biles of the United States during the Artistic Gymnastics Podium Training at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Team USA will be wearing the standard leotards this year, but they've supported other athletes' decision to wear unitards.

"Personally, I feel comfortable in a leo, and that's more my style," Biles told Team USA in June. "I feel like [a bodysuit] might shorten me, but I stand with their decision to wear whatever they please and whatever makes them feel comfortable. So if anyone out there wants to wear a unitard or leotard, it's totally up to you."

Her teammate Sunisa Lee also thinks the unitards are "a really good idea." "I think those are really cool. I like it a lot because people should be able to wear what they feel comfortable in, and it shouldn't be a leotard if you don't want to wear it," she told Team USA.

Kara Eaker, an alternate for Team USA at Tokyo 2020, who had to return home after contracting coronavirus, praised the unitard too. "It's different, it stands out, and it's a power move," she said. "I haven't really trained in one before, so I wouldn't know how that would affect my training and gymnastics ability, but I'd be open to trying anything."

Revealing uniforms for women athletes have become a controversial topic recently.

Gymnasts' uniforms aren't the only source of controversy for professional women athletes as of late. The Norwegian women's handball team was just fined for refusing to wear bikini bottoms, which are mandated by the European Handball Federation, after the team shared a photo in their groundbreaking shorts. Conversely, two-time Paralympic Olivia Breen, who competes in track events, was told by an official at the English Championships that her shorts were "too short" and "inappropriate."

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