Gymnastics-NZ revamps 'archaic' attire rules to help women feel comfortable

(Reuters) - Gymnastics New Zealand (GNZ) has revamped its attire rules to allow women and girls to wear shorts or leggings over their leotards, and will stop penalizing athletes for visible underwear and bra straps during competitions in New Zealand.

The governing body said the changes were made after a survey of competitive gymnasts, which garnered over 200 responses, found the athletes wanted to "feel comfortable and safe" in the sport.

"We found the regulations around underwear were unclear and unevenly applied and, to be honest, a little archaic," GNZ chief executive Andrea Nelson said in a statement.

"We're just making sure that wherever you are in the sport, you have the choice. So no one feels uncomfortable or excluded."

The new rules only govern competitions in New Zealand. For international competition gymnasts are still governed by International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) rules.

Those require females to wear "correct sportive non transparent leotard or unitard ... which must be of elegant design".

Female athletes can have anywhere from 0.30 to 1.00 points deducted from their final score for attire violations during individual or teams routines.

Athletes have previously voiced concerns over gymnastic attire, with the German team choosing to wear full-body suits at the Tokyo Olympics as a stand against the sexualisation of women in sport.

Another 2021 study by Sport New Zealand on female teenagers revealed many were leaving sport and active recreation because they felt uncomfortable in some kit.

Nelson said that relaxing some of the regulations around attire might keep girls in sport and would at least bring the rules for females in line with those of males, who have long been able to wear shorts or trousers.

"Gymnastics is a tough enough sport without having to stress about incurring a deduction because a judge can see your bra strap," Nelson added.

(Reporting by Shifa Jahan in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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