2 Apr 2024

Young gymnasts have quit over leotards, sporting body says

8:38 pm on 2 April 2024
feet young athlete girls gymnast exercises on balance beam

Female gymnasts can now wear shorts or leggings over their leotards. Photo: 123RF

Young women have quit gymnastics because of what they were required to wear, the head of the national gymnastics organisation says.

Gymnastics New Zealand has now overhauled its rules to allow female gymnasts to wear shorts or leggings over their leotards.

They will also no longer be penalised for having visible bra straps.

The changes were about making gymnasts - most of whom were young women - feel comfortable and safe, Gymnastics New Zealand chief executive Andrea Nelson told Checkpoint.

"There's lots of factors that pushed young women out of gymnastics at a certain point and I think the uniform was one of them."

Some of the new clothing rules had been in force in some of the five codes that the organisation oversees for years.

However, they were not known by everyone and were not enforced consistently, Nelson said.

"We wanted to do a full overhaul across all of the five codes we govern to make sure that our gymnasts have the clear information they need to be comfortable."

Gymnastics New Zealand surveyed all of the athletes competing at its last national competition about how they felt about their uniforms.

The results showed the majority of respondents loved their leotards, with some saying they felt powerful or like a "superstar" wearing it.

However, others felt less comfortable, Nelson said.

"This is about giving people choice to wear what they feel comfortable in, whether it is their leotard or whether they'd rather wear shorts or leggings."

There were some restrictions as to the level of change that could be achieved, as gymnastics was a highly technical sport and there were safety concerns around attire.

However, some of the old rules simply did not make sense, Nelson said.

"In trampolining, men and women who do the same thing on the same equipment were being asked to wear different clothes. One of the big changes we've made is getting rid of that - you wear what you're comfortable in order to compete."

It was hoped the change could help to "remove barriers" to women and girls competing in the sport.

The new rules only apply to competitions held within New Zealand and international competitions will have their own dress codes.