BERLIN — Germany's female gymnasts are preparing to compete at the Tokyo Olympics with a strikingly different look after packing unitards alongside leotards in their kit bags.
The unitard has characteristics of the traditional leotard but comes with attached leggings that run down to the ankles, being designed for comfort. It was described by the German Gymnastics Federation in April as being a move "against sexualization in gymnastics."
The federation said the kit's purpose was "to present aesthetically, without feeling uncomfortable," and after a positive pilot at the European Championships in Basel, an Olympic Games version of the kit has been launched for Team Deutschland's competitors.
Elisabeth Seitz, set to compete in her third Olympics, said: "It's about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear."
Most people were positive about it. But after the European Championships the time was way too short for others to design a unitard.
It is not a given that Germany will wear the unitard for competition at Tokyo's Ariake Gymnastics Centre, but that is an option. The team will vote on whether to don the leotard or unitard ahead of Sunday's qualification event.
"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," Seitz said. "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."
The German team's move comes at a time when there is scrutiny on the demands put on female sports stars when it comes to their attire. Norway's beach handball team members were fined as their shorts were ruled to be too long, while British Paralympic long-jumper Olivia Breen was told by an official her briefs were too short.
The German gymnasts have found support for their mission, with Games newcomer Sarah Voss saying: "We girls had a big influence on this. 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."