Sticking the Landing: The Definitive Ranking of the USA’s Olympic Gymnastics Leotards

Summer Olympics Rio

The Summer Olympics (the empirically better Olympics–sorry, biathlon) is just around the corner. There’s plenty of talk about the controversy, doping, athletic prowess, and super bacteria out there but I want to focus on my favourite part of the games: the costumes and hair. You know, sports stuff. Specifically, let’s take a close look at the USA’s Olympic Gymnastics leotards.

Shannon Miller
Shannon Miller nailing a beam routine all while counter balancing a yard of fabric on the back of her head.

The primary purpose of a gymnastics leotard is to allow the wearer to perform superhuman stunts and acrobatics, but they also serve a second important function—identification on a national stage. It’s the job of the uniform to quickly communicate who the athlete is and what country they are from. The best uniforms are recognizable, usually through the country’s flag pattern or national colours, and they also have some sort of visual interest, like foil or crystals. For hair, you really want it to be plastered down with a lot of barrettes and maybe that gel stuff that synchronized swimmers use. That’s really the classic gymnastics look, and I won’t settle for anything less. Since the reign of the Magnificent Seven in 1996 there have been a wide variety of team USA leotards, and I think it’s only appropriate to rate them now. I will be marking them on a super official and clearly objective 10-point scale, with 7 points available for excellence in leotard design and 3 points available for best gymnastics hair.

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