For decades, female gymnasts have worn leotards in bikinis. In qualifications on Sunday, however, the German squad, composed of Sarah Voss, Pauline Schaefer-Betz, Elisabeth Seitz, and Kim Bui, wore ankle-length white and red coveralls instead, intending to stand against the sexualization of women in gymnastics and promote freedom of choice.
This is not a first since the German team had already worn full suits during the European Championships last April. And this gesture had been widely acclaimed by other female gymnasts.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t want to wear the normal leotard anymore,” said Elisabeth Seitz. It’s a day-to-day decision, based on how we feel and what we want. On the day of the competition, we will decide what to wear.”
For women, the standard competition dress is a leotard, with long, half-sleeved, and sleeveless clothing allowed. Clothing covering the legs is permitted by regulation in international gymnastics competitions, but to date, they have been used almost exclusively for religious reasons.
The Tokyo Olympics are the first Games since Larry Nassar, a former US national gymnastics team doctor, was sentenced to 176 years in prison for sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts, including some of the greatest sports stars. During his sentencing, athletes – including some Olympians – described how the culture of sport allowed the abuse and objectification of young women and girls.