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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The status quo of elite female gymnastics, which has been questioned for decades, may finally be ready to change.

The state of play: Gymnastics is steeped in tradition, but the Larry Nassar scandal has led to a reexamination of many of its outdated norms, and there have already been some encouraging signs of change.

  • Apparel changes: Three German gymnasts donned unitards at last month's European Gymnastics Championships — a symbolic gesture "for all gymnasts who might feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal leotards," wrote one of the athletes on Instagram.
  • Culture of abuse: Aside from the heinous sexual abuse, coaches have long made their athletes endure physical pain while training, leading to mental and physical burnout. But after hundreds went public about Nassar, thousands opened up about the sport's toxic culture.
  • Prevention and protection: The IOC recently established a certification course to create a legion of international safeguarding officers. There's still a lot of work to be done, but it's a good start.
  • Age is just a number: Gymnastics used to favor a balletic aesthetic, which called for smaller, and thus younger athletes. But the sport has evolved, challenging the notion that one's prime is as a teenager. Just ask 32-year-old former Olympic medalist Chellsie Memmel, who came out of a nine-year retirement and hopes to qualify for Tokyo.

Looking ahead: Simone Biles recently left Nike for Athleta, which will fund Biles' post-Olympic Gold Over America Tour that she's planning to mount herself, rather than the usual tour backed by USA Gymnastics.

  • Biles' powerful voice is one of many speaking out against USA Gymnastics, which she believes is "more interested in avoiding responsibility for Nassar's abuse than in finding the truth," per NYT.
  • Her Athleta-funded tour could help reshape professional opportunities for gymnasts and usher in a new era for the sport.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

Winners and losers of the Summer Games

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Tokyo Games were a wake-up call for the mental health of Olympic athletes and a groundbreaking event for the LGBTQ community — but a big loss for NBC and anyone who wanted Russia to actually get punished for the doping scandal.

Updated 19 mins ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.