Some British gymnasts are pushing back against what they call “outdated and sexist” leotard rules that dictate what they are allowed to wear during competition.
British olympian Jennifer Pinches, a member of Team Great Britain in 2021, told the Sunday Times that the leotards athletes are asked to wear are “perpetuating extremely harmful ideals.”
The controversy comes after gymnasts from other European nations have begun adopting full-length bodysuits during competition. Specifically, as the Daily Mail reports, “…German gymnast Sarah Voss set a trend by wearing a full length bodysuits to compete at the 2021 European Gymnastics Championships in April in favour of the traditionally worn leotard.”
Voss wrote on Instagram that she was “immensely proud” to wear the unitard. Something she was “close to the hearts” of her and her teammates.
However, at the European Championships, the unitard is normally only worn by competitors who must wear them for religious reasons. Other competitors have traditionally complied with the stated leotard guidance.
“According to current guidance laid out by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG), gymnastics outfits during competition should be ‘elegant’ with a leg length not exceeding 2cm,” the Daily Mail reports.
Pinches, who launched Gymnasts for Change along with fellow gymnast Claire Heafford, says the leotard guidance is “evidence of a sport that is prioritising aesthetics over athletics.”
Together, Pinches and Heafford see their effort as one that will desexualize the sport and help combat the rash of coaching abuses.
Perhaps most notably, Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 200 women during his time working with American gymnasts.