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24 Apr, 2021 11:31

German gymnasts wear full-body attire in stand against ‘sexualization’ – and some people want beach volleyball to follow suit

German gymnasts wear full-body attire in stand against ‘sexualization’ – and some people want beach volleyball to follow suit

Members of the German gymnastics team have triggered debate on female sporting attire after they opted for full-body suits at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships this week.

German star Sarah Voss, 21, made the clothing choice on Wednesday during qualifying in Basel, Switzerland, and was followed by two teammates on Friday in the all-round women’s final.

Explaining the step, Voss said "we hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example,” while the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) said Voss the team were taking a stand again “sexualization in gymnastics.”

“In the sport of gymnastics it gets harder and harder as you grow out of your child's body,” Voss added to broadcaster ZDF.  

“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.”

The clothing swap was completely legal, and elsewhere it was pointed out that judges sometimes even deducted points when competitors were forced to adjust shorter leotards during their routines.

Responding online, many praised Voss for the initiative.

“Looks awesome,” read one response, while another congratulated Voss for “her bold move to defy convention.”

“I'm by no means the most politically correct or prudish person, but in this day and age having teenage girls do routines in tight sparkly outfits does seem......yeah,” added one person.

“Thank god, now I don’t have to feel like creep watching it. Always bothered me and I thought it was required dress code in a weird sport. Sod that, let them dress like super heroes, it looks much cooler and less creepy,” said another.

One Twitter user wrote: “About darn time! For the same reason that wrestling singlets needed to be updated. Student athletes should not have to think about what might show in their uniform. I did gymnastics and yes, I did think about it all the time.”

Some, however, noted the shifting tides of feminism across time and geography – while there were even calls for beach volleyball to be the next sport to target skimpy outfits for female competitors.

“Now the female volleyball teams need to address their attire. Butt cheek molding short shorts have no place in Girls/ Women’s athletics. Full body suits that are elegant – why not just say, you can be modest as long as you are still sexualized?” said one Twitter user. 

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“This is long-overdue. Thank you, Sarah, for focusing the attention on the performance, not the body. I would love to see female volleyball players do the same by stopping the use of the super-short vball shorts too,” said another.

Others said it should ultimately be about choice.

“Wear leotard if you want or full body suit if you want. There should be no points deductions or any negative outcome from this,” came one response.

“The full body suit looks amazing but some might prefer the leotard. Either way there should be complete freedom to choose.”

Commenting on her Instagram page, Voss wrote: “Unfortunately, my bar didn't go as I had hoped, but I'm still happy about the chance to take part in these great European championships here! It's great fun to be on the podium again and feel the adrenaline!

"In addition, I am immensely proud that I was the first to present this heart project to our team! Feel good and still look elegant, why not?”

Voss finished down in 94th place in the all-round qualification standings, with 15-year-old Russian sensation Victoria Listunova taking home the all-round crown ahead of teammate Angelina Melnikova in second. Great Britain’s Jessica Gadirova was third.