"It's about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear."
The amazingly talented female athletes aren't the only ones grabbing headlines during the Tokyo Olympics this year—what they're wearing is getting a lot of attention too, but for all the right reasons. The German women's gymnastics team is just one team of women who have decided to change things up when it comes to their uniforms, and a lot of people have been talking about their choice to don full-length body leotards.
Most importantly, though, is what they have to say about it.
The conventional leotard for women in gymnastics is high-cut and displays the gymnast's legs, crotch, and backside. Male gymnasts wear full-coverage leotards. In a recent interview with ZDF, German gymnastics team member Sarah Voss says the uniform change isn't just about physical comfort, but internal comfort as well.
"We women all want to feel good in our skin. In the sport of gymnastics, it gets harder and harder as you grow out of your child's body. 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."
This is such an important pain point to validate. Imagine the pressure to concentrate on your sport and excel at it, and to do it all while being self-conscious of what you're wearing and how you look.
The women's team has the full support of the German Gymnastics Federation, which backed up the uniform decision earlier this year. They said the new leotards are a statement against "sexualization in gymnastics, and that "The aim is to present themselves aesthetically—without feeling uncomfortable."
The Norwegian women's handball team also changed their uniforms earlier this year during a pre-Olympics competition. Instead of skimpy bikini bottoms that are likely extremely uncomfortable, they wore Spandex biker shorts. Because women don't need to wear bikini bottoms in order to perform their sport to their full athletic potential (As a woman who has worn both a bikini bottom and a bike short, I would argue it's likely much, much easier to perform said sport while not wearing tight bikini bottoms).
The German women's team came to the decision to change up their uniforms together as a group, with the full support of their coaches as well.
"We girls had a big influence on this," Voss said. "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."
While the team says the change doesn't mean they'll forgo wearing the normal leotard anymore—it means they took control over what they want to wear, and when they want to wear it. We love to see women supporting one another, and paving the way for female empowerment in sports from now on.