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German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s “sexualization”

MARIJAN MURAT / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP

Zelda Caldwell - published on 07/28/21 - updated on 07/28/21

The move follows a decision by the Norwegian beach handball team to compete in shorts rather than bikini bottoms in defiance of their sport’s regulations.

In a statement against the “sexualization” of their sport, the German women’s gymnastics team arrived at the qualifications for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Sunday wearing full-body unitards.

The unitards covered the gymnasts’ entire legs, unlike the commonly worn high-cut swimsuit style. The German team first wore these more modest uniforms in April at the European championships in Basel, Switzerland.

The outfits are a statement against “sexualization in gymnastics,” the German Gymnastics Federation said in April. 

“The aim is to present themselves aesthetically — without feeling uncomfortable,” they said.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) allows competitors to wear unitards, a regulation that in the past has allowed for differences in religious beliefs and practices among competitors.

“She may wear complete leg coverings of the same color as that of the leotard; under or on top of the leotard,” the FIG rule book says.

“It just makes you feel better and more comfortable”

The decision to wear the new unitards had the support of the gymnasts themselves.

“We girls had a big influence on this,” gymnast Sarah Voss said according to a CNN report. “The coaches were also very much into it. They said they want us to feel the most confident and comfortable in any case. It just makes you feel better and more comfortable.”

“We decided this is the most comfortable leotard for today,” Seitz said. “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. On competition day, we will decide what to wear.”

Norwegian women fined for competing in shorts

The Norwegian women’s beach handball team made news recently when they were fined 1,500 euros for competing in shorts rather than the bikini bottoms mandated by the conference’s rules.

“The Disciplinary Commission at the Beach Handball EURO 2021 has dealt with a case of improper clothing. In the bronze medal game against Spain on Sunday the team of Norway played with shorts that are not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF Beach Handball Rules of the Game,” read the statement from the sport’s governing body.

According to the IHF’s regulations, men can compete in tank tops and shorts no longer than 4 inches above the knee, but women are required to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” and a maximum side width of 4 inches.

The women’s team decided to wear the shorts in spite of the threat of being fined or disqualified.

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A post shared by Beachhåndballjentene🇳🇴 (@norwaybeachhandballwomen)

“It was very spontaneous. We thought, ‘Let’s just do it now, and then see what happens,'” player Katinka Haltvik told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, as was reported by

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