Gym team, tired of ‘sexualization’, is wearing unitards | Sports news

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By CLAIRE GALOFARO, Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) – The team’s outfits looked similar to the others in the room as the arena lights glittered from crystals that crossed her chest and crimson and white sleeves.

But the new Olympic suits of the German gymnasts did not stop at the hips.

Gymnasts have been wearing bikini-cut jerseys for decades. In the qualification on Sunday, however, the German team wore unitards stretched to the ankles instead to combat the sexualization of women in gymnastics.

The Tokyo Olympics will mark the first summer games since Larry Nassar, a former US gymnastics team doctor, was jailed for 176 years for sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts, including some of the sport’s greatest stars. When sentenced, athletes – some of them Olympians – described how the culture of sport allowed the abuse and objectification of young women and girls.

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Male gymnasts wear comparatively body-covering clothing: undershirts with wide shorts for floor and jumping exercises and long trousers for bar and pommel horse exercises.

At the European Gymnastics Championships in April, the German team wore a full suit for the first time.

Sarah Voss, a 21-year-old German, said they weren’t sure they would wear them again during an Olympic competition until they met before the meeting.

“We sat together today and said: Okay, we want a big competition,” said Voss. “We want to feel great, we want to show everyone that we look great.”

While their wardrobe revolution has widely championed, so far it has not sparked a trend. Leg-free jerseys were worn by every other gymnast during qualifying for the Tokyo Games.

4-foot-8 American superstar Simone Biles said in June that she prefers jerseys because they elongate the leg and make them appear taller.

“But I stand by your decision to wear whatever you want and what makes you comfortable,” said Biles. “So if someone out there wants to wear a unitard or a leotard, it’s up to you.”

Matt Cowan, chief commercial officer of GK Elite, the leading jersey maker in the United States, said most of the requests for suits are now coming from countries that require modesty for cultural and religious reasons. You haven’t seen any other rush for catsuits.

“Would we do it? Necessarily. We have the ability to design it and do it, and we did it, “said Cowan.” But from a consumer demand perspective, we’re not there yet. “

Gymnastics is often viewed as a sport that is best practiced by very young women and girls. Galle, at 24, often jokes about being old; She recently referred to herself as a grandma on social media.

But other nations have resisted this emphasis on youth, including the Germans: Elisabeth Seitz is 27, Kim Bui is 32, Pauline Schafer is 24 and Voss is 21 years old. Your average body age of 26 years as they age and change.

Your outfits comply with the cloakroom rules of the International Gymnastics Federation. However, that does not mean that women athletes are generally free to cover their bodies as they see fit.

Just days before the games started, the Norwegian women’s beach volleyball team refused to play in bikini bottoms in European tournaments, opting for skin-tight shorts instead. For this they received a fine for violating a cloakroom requirement.

But on the gymnastics qualification Sunday, the speaker called the outfits “very nice” over the loudspeaker.

AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.

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