Martha Karolyi, the national team coordinator of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, wants her five young athletes to be confident when they walk onto the competition floor in Rio. Golden resumes and years of hard training under both their personal coaches and Karolyi’s own critical eye ensure that they feel ready when they step onto the world’s biggest sporting stage.
And the right outfit doesn’t hurt, either. Something red, white, blue and as sparkly as possible usually does the trick for Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.
Competition leotards “are like little prom dresses,” Karolyi said in a conference call with the media in late July. “It will give them a very good feeling to go out there with a good look and with a good preparation paired together.”
The New York Times reported that under Karolyi’s 15-year tenure as the leader of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program, she’s pushed for the evolution of leotard fashion.
Kelly McKeown, the executive vice president for design and corporate relations at GK Elite, told the Times, “We went from being very patriotic to being much fancier.”
“Martha always wants ‘more sparkle, more sparkle.'”
GK Elite and Under Armour will be outfitting the U.S. gymnastics team in Rio. Each Olympic gymnast will receive 20 total custom-fitted leotards, eight for the competition and 12 for training. Each competition leotard, the Times reported, would cost about $1,200 in stores.
Leotards adorned with Swarovski crystals have gotten progressively trendy. In Beijing, Nastia Liukin won all-around gold with 184 crystals, while Douglas wore 1,188 crystals when she won the London all-around title.
“We may have hit peak crystal,” McKeown said of the Rio leotards, which have nearly 5,000 crystals each. “It’s difficult for me to imagine how we could get more crystals on.”
Samantha Peszek, who won team silver with Liukin in Beijing, explained, “It’s part of the ‘look good, feel good, do good’ aspect. It’s a very important part of the sport. It may sound trivial, but what you wear really matters.”
Douglas’ teammate in London, Jordyn Wieber, agreed that the crystal-covered leotard is simply part of gymnastics culture.
“I have never met a gymnast who doesn’t love rhinestones.”