Francis says full-body suits are empowering for female gymnasts

German female gymnasts at the European championships grabbed the headlines for wearing bodysuits rather than leotards in a sport plagued by abuse scandals. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Jamaica's Danusia Francis, a former UCLA gymnast, said the decision by German athletes to compete in full-body suits at the European Gymnastics Championships last week was empowering for women.

Sarah Voss donned a full-body suit at the Basel event and was followed by teammates Kim Bui and Elisabeth Seitz. The German Gymnastics Association (DTB) said that the move was a stand against sexualisation in the sport.

"I think it's amazing," Francis, who previously represented Britain but will compete for Jamaica at this year's Tokyo Games, told the BBC. "I feel empowered that we've got this option where we can choose to cover up."

For women gymnasts, the standard competition outfit is a leotard, with long, half-length sleeved and sleeveless garments allowed.

Outfits covering legs are allowed by the gymnastics rulebook in international competitions, but to date they have been used almost exclusively for religious reasons.

"I think as people are staying in the sport longer, obviously they're not young girls and they've got voices, they are women, so to see them making a statement and on an international stage ... it was great to see," Francis said.

In an Instagram post, Voss said she was proud to perform in such an outfit, receiving a flurry of positive comments.

"As part of the German national team, we are also a role model for many younger female athletes and would like to show them how they can present themselves aesthetically in a different form of clothing without feeling uncomfortable," Voss said.

Voss's body suit received widespread support from within the sport, where the debate about the use of leotards has grown louder in recent years.

"Amazing," Canadian gymnast Ellie Black said on Instagram, commenting on Voss's post, while Australian gymnast Georgia Godwin said: "Love this! Congrats Sarah!"

On Facebook, an article on Voss's body suit by German news outlet Tagesschau earned 10,000 "likes" and 1,600 comments.