Gymnastics: the sexualization of sports: “Each athlete must decide for himself how he feels most comfortable”

Status: 05/05/2022 12:30 PM

Her appearance sparked controversy around the world last year: instead of wearing the usual light outfit, Sarah Voss participated in a body suit at the European Championships. The gymnast today received the Fair Play Award from the German Olympic Sports Federation for her commitment.

In an interview with Sportschau, gymnast Sarah Voss talked about sex in sports, the way to wear the bodysuit at EM 2021, the DOSB Fair Play Award and about tough times during the Corona break.

Sports Show: Congratulations on the Fair Play Award DOSB. What does this award mean to you?

Sarah Foss: The price means a lot to me. This is also because of the big word it resonates with, which is fair play. This applies to all sports and of course I am very honored to be able to accept the award on behalf of the rest of our team.

How did it happen that you and your colleagues Elizabeth Seitz and Kim Boye in M Competing in a full body suit?

Voss: It was actually a long process. We first talked about it at boot camp. There it is customary to do gymnastics without pants from time to time. Just to get a better sense of the competition. But this time, some girls expressed their unease.

Then our national coach at the time drew our attention to a regulation under which long pants have been allowed in competitions since 2012, as long as they fit the suit. After many discussions, we then started designing the suits ourselves with our seamstress. The result was ultimately our prototypes, which we were allowed to present at EM 2021.

Comments were mostly positive.

What have other gymnasts reacted to the suit? To date, the German national team is the only one to wear the long suit in international competitions.

Voss: This is correct. But the feedback has been mostly positive, especially in terms of the design and that we generally dared to take the step. There are girls who still think the idea and our suits were too cool, but they wouldn’t wear them in person. that’s good.

Gymnast Sarah Voss during the German Championships on the balance beam

Photo: Photo Alliance / Laci Perenyi

We just want to offer another option of the suit, also for popular sports, but everyone must decide for themselves how they feel most comfortable. Of course, we still hope that girls who like a suit will dare to wear it more often. Now the contraindications are great, because they are something else.

She started this season with great success and took first place at the World Cup in Baku and qualified for the 2021 Olympics. However, she described the past two years as difficult. Why was that?

Voss: Due to the Corona pandemic, not only were many competitions canceled, but training was also very difficult. Although we had the perks as team players, it was a very tough time. For me personally because I totally missed supporting my team on my way to the matches.

When Tokyo was postponed for a year, it was another punch in the stomach. For another year, somehow maintaining the performance that I’ve built up over the years has been really tough.

But other things besides sports suddenly took a much higher priority than gymnastics. Of course, making the best offers has always been more difficult. But the Olympics was a great experience, but I still took some time after that and reviewed the last few years. From this I gained new strength and courage to stand on the gas again until Paris 2024.

With Gerben Wiersma there is a new women’s national coach this year. However, this employee is controversial due to previous investigations by the Dutch League, which were stopped. How is working with him so far?

Voss: I am very satisfied. Mainly because he is a very communicative person and responds to us athletes. We’ve talked a lot about the past months and years – what can be improved, what are our desires. But of course it was also about his past, which he is very open about.

When he was appointed, we the Olympic team and the wider circuit had a right to be involved in the decision, and we spoke frankly with him about the investigations, from which he was acquitted, and shared our concerns. However, we believe we can work together very well, and if things continue like this, we can achieve great things.

“At a certain age, they may be more willing to take responsibility.”

In gymnastics, the young age of the athletes is always a problem. What do you think of the demand for a general minimum age in the Olympics?

Voss: At least in the gymnastics that already exists, we can only participate in the Olympics from the age of 16. But I think it’s generally important that young athletes get the time they need to fully develop and grow in an environment that challenges them but doesn’t overwhelm them.

Raising the minimum age to 18 will save Of course, there is also an opportunity to make our sport more sustainable right from the start. The players do not reach their peak performance at 16 until after that. At a certain age, they may also be more willing to take responsibility.

Because when you’re young, you may not always see the big picture. But the older you get, the more reflective you become. And you can definitely take advantage of it.

The conversation was conducted by Katharina Schubert.


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