By Barbara Woolsey and Andreas Kranz
BERLIN (Reuters) - Full-body suits could encourage teenage gymnasts put off by traditional leotards to stay in the sport, according to German Sarah Voss, who drew praise for wearing one at the recent European Championships.
The 21-year-old Voss, who hopes to compete at this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, donned a full-body suit at the 2021 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Basel last month, in what was described as a stand against sexualisation in gymnastics.
"For us, it was important above all to reach young athletes because it's often said that a couple of athletes right now do not want to continue in the sport during puberty due to the dress code," Voss said.
"We want to show them that us competitive athletes also wear such a thing and can present ourselves this way and everyone should decide what they would like to wear."
For female athletes, the standard gymnastic competition outfit is a leotard, with long, half-length sleeves and sleeveless garments allowed.
Outfits covering legs are allowed by the gymnastics rulebook in international competitions, but to date they have been used almost exclusively for religious reasons.
The German Gymnastics Association (DTB) said their athletes wore the full body suit in Basel as a stand "against sexualisation in gymnastics".
Voss said the suits could also help to avoid embarrassment.
"Gymnasts don't always feel so comfortable training in leotards, also in gymnastics competitions, one has the feeling that they slip out of place or could slip out of place. And perhaps that cameras or photographers can catch this poor moment," Voss said.
"This bodysuit originated for this reason, simply to show that there is a possibility and since 2012, wearing matching trousers is also allowed."
(Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Toby Davis)