Gymnastics New Zealand has made amendments to its dress-code rules, allowing female athletes to wear shorts during competitions so their bodies won’t be exposed.
The rule was introduced in the wake of a scandal in which several elite gymnasts came forward to reveal they had been psychologically and verbally abused during their careers.
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The allegations voiced by the female gymnasts included body-shaming, intimidation and discomfort while competing as a result of wearing revealing leotards.
Some gymnasts said they were forced to withdraw from competitions as they felt vulnerable putting on leotards while they were on their period.
“When I made my floor [routine, I did] not put anything where I split my legs, just in case I’m on my period,” said 15-year old gymnast Lina.
“You’re already nervous about competing and it would be nice to not have that extra thing to be nervous about.”
New Zealand gymnasts claimed to have been bullied by coaches who allegedly made comments about their physical shape, calling them “fat” and “ugly.”
Many gymnasts and their parents complained about a different approach to male gymnasts, who are allowed to compete in shorts, while their female counterparts are required to put on leotards having their bodies exposed.
“The leotard… reveals corporeal curves, cleavage and the crotch. Men wear rather plain clothes in comparison to the women, and they wear different types of clothes for the different apparatus. The crotch is never made visible as in women’s gymnastics,” said Associate Professor Natalie Barker-Ruchti from Orebro University in Sweden.
Female gymnasts will have to request permission to wear shorts at competitions, with no point deductions being made for violating dress restrictions.
“[The] deduction should not apply to them as long they do not compromise H&S (health and safety) in terms of loose and therefore potentially hazardous clothing. This sentiment will be conveyed to judges and coaches,”said GNZ Chief Executive Tony Compier.
The new rule will be applied only in local competitions in New Zealand, as international gymnastics events guided by the FIG still require leotards to be worn by female competitors.
However, according to Stuff, the gymnastics governing body could also change its uniform requirements in the near future, with a spokesperson saying that the rules “could be reviewed soon.”