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Sarah Voss: German hopes full-body suits make young gymnasts feel safe

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Sarah Voss was the first to wear the unitard at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Basel

Sarah Voss says she wants to be a “role model for young gymnasts who don’t feel very safe in every situation” after she competed in a full-body suit at the European Championships last week.

The German’s outfit defied convention as previously women and girls had only covered their legs in international competition for religious reasons.

Voss hopes others will follow her lead.

“It does not say that everyone should do it, it just says that everyone can do whatever they want,” said Voss.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Naga Munchetty show, Voss said the project had been a year in the making.

The 21-year-old added: “If they feel safe they can wear a normal leotard if they like it. If there is a certain point they think they would feel better in a long leotard, then they should do it.

“For me, it doesn’t say I have to wear a long leotard in the future every time. It depends on how I am feeling and how I’d like to perform.”

Two of the German’s team-mates, Kim Bui and Elisabeth Seitz, also wore the full-body suit – which cover the athletes’ legs to the ankles – during the women’s all-around final on Friday.

The German federation said its gymnasts were taking a stand against “sexualisation in gymnastics”.

The International Gymnastics Federation rules allow competitors to wear a “one-piece leotard with full-length legs”, provided it is of elegant design.

“To do splits and jumps, sometimes the leotards are not covering everything, sometimes they slip and that’s why we invented a new form of leotard so that everyone feels safe around competitions and training,” Voss explained.

“Every time you don’t feel safe it’s distracting you from what you want to perform. I think that feeling safe and not thinking about what other people can or cannot see is quite relieving when you can compete like that.

“Some girls quit this beautiful sport [because of having to wear leotards] so that is why this is a great option for everyone to stay in the sport they love and don’t think about anything else about their body – just about their performance.”

Speaking to BBC Sportsday, British-Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis said the suits “gives the power of choice back” to the athletes and could “open the door” for more women in the sport.

The full interview will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Naga Munchetty show at 10:00 BST on Wednesday, or you can listen back on BBC Sounds.

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