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Germany's Olympic Gymnastics Team Just Made A Strong Statement Against Sexualisation In Sport

In a statement, German gymnast Elisabeth Seitz said: "We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear."

The subject of women's sporting uniforms has been a hot topic lately, with Norway's beach handball team making international news when they were fined for refusing to wear bikini bottoms.

Other sporting teams have chosen to take a stand against sexist regulations for clothing, including the women of Germany's gymnastics team who are currently competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Pauline Schäfer from Germany doing a routine
Marijan Murat/ Picture Alliance via Getty Images

During training and events, the team has chosen to forgo the usual bikini-cut leotards in favour of full-body suits, which cover their legs and ankles.

L-R: Germany's Sarah Voss and Paulina Schäfer, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui
Marijan Murat/ Picture Alliance via Getty Images

The full-body unitards were first worn in April at the European Championships and were branded as a statement against "sexualisation in gymnastics" by the German Gymnastics Federation.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

In their tweet, the Federation also said that "the aim is to present aesthetically — without feeling uncomfortable." 

In an interview with ZDF, German gymnast Sarah Voss explained her decision to wear the unitard at the time, saying: "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."

Fast forward to the Olympics and her teammate, Elisabeth Seitz, has explained that the decision to don the full-length suits at the Games was made together as a group, with the full support of the coaches.

L-R: Sarah Voss, Pauline Schäfer, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui from Germany stand together after the competition.
Marijan Murat/ Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Seitz said: "It's about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear."

Elisabeth Seitz of Team Germany competes on uneven bars at the Tokyo Olympics
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

She also highlighted that while the unitard was their preferred choice, all gymnasts should be free to decide what they want to wear, based on how they're feeling on the day.

Picture Alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

"We decided this is the most comfortable leotard for today. That doesn't mean we don't want to wear the normal leotard any more. It is a decision day by day, based on how we feel and what we want."

Currently, the rules of the International Gymnastics Federation state that female competitors are allowed to wear one-piece leotards — as long as it is an elegant design and the colours of the pants match the leotard itself.

Carina Kröll wear a unitard while competing on beam
Photo by Tom Weller/ Picture Alliance via Getty Images

So, although no rules were broken, this was a huge step forward in allowing athletes to compete and wear whatever they feel comfortable in — as long as it allows them to perform to the best of their abilities.