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German women's gym team at Tokyo 2020
The leotards included skin-colored accentsImage: Marijan Murat/dpa/picture alliance

Germany gymnasts protest with full-body leotards

July 26, 2021

Germany's gymnastics team wore full-body suits during qualifications at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday in a protest against the sexualization of women in the sport.


Germany's female gymnasts took a stand against the sexualization of women in their sport by wearing unitards instead of the common bikini-cut leotards.

The team, made out of Sarah Voss, Pauline Schäfer, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, had already worn unitards during training on Thursday, but said the decision to compete in them was only made shortly before the meet.

"We sat together today and said, OK, we want to have a big competition," 21-year-old Voss said.

"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."

Tokyo 2020 is the first Summer Olympics since the imprisonment of US coach Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of athletes, including superstar Simone Biles.

Tokyo 2020 | Turnen: Kim Bui aus Deutschland
Germany's Kim Bui performing in the unitard at the Tokyo Olympics.Image: Marijan Murat/dpa/picture alliance

Voss said they wanted to become "role models" and the team's actions drew praise from their fellow athletes.

"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," said Norwegian gymnast Julie Erichsen. "I applaud them for that."

When the team wore their unitards for the first time back in April, Seitz told DW that she hoped women in other sports would follow their lead. 

"I want every woman in every sport to have the opportunity to decide by herself what she wants to wear," she said.

Outfits covering legs are authorized in international competitions but up until now they had almost exclusively been worn for religious reasons.

Germany's gymnastics team did not qualify for finals.

ftm/ (Reuters/AP)

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