In recent years, athletes such as Lindsey Vonn, Maria Sharapova and Danica Patrick have been considered among the most beautiful in the world. The ESPN 2012 Body Issue clearly shows that there may be some new athletes to consider for such an honor.
While the images still left something to the imagination, there is no question that the stunning, alluring beauty of these athletes forces fans to see them in a whole new light. Although every athlete (male and female) appears nude in the ESPN Body Issue, there is no question that these are highly conditioned athletes.
Although the fact that these athletes are portrayed nude would indicate a certain degree of vulnerability, their nudity is also empowering, and shows a unique strength and courage. It is not everyone who would have the courage to be featured nude and have their appearance potentially criticized. Several female athletes from the Body Issue are competing in the London Summer Games (Candice Parker, Abby Wambach, Daniela Hantuchova) and the Paralympic Games (Oksana Masters), while others have been in Summer Games past (Anna Tunicliffe).
Candace Parker is clearly one of the most talented basketball players in the world. Her photo and illuminating smile make a strong case that she is just as attractive as fellow WNBA superstar and rival, Lauren Jackson. If the two ever played on together, that would truly give new meaning to the word Dream Team.
Superstar tennis player Daniela Hantuchova may not have won the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games but she may prove to be just as popular as Maria Sharapova with her photos. Mentored by tennis great Martina Navratolova, the native of Slovakia was defeated by Caroline Wozniacki in the Summer Games. Having also appeared in the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (one of the few athletes to have appeared in both publications), the classically trained pianist also appeared on one of six special edition covers for the Body Issue.
In following teammate Hope Solo, who appeared in the 2011 ESPN Body Issue, US soccer player Abby Wambach looks like a Greek god in her photo. Although Wambach is not a sex symbol like Solo, the Florida Gator Athletic Hall of Fame inductee who scored the gold medal winning goal at the 2004 Athens Games displays a physique that looks like it was carved from marble. Her photos show a quiet dignity to her, a strength and toughness that is unmatched. One that can withstand the sucker punch that she endured at the hands of a Columbian player in a 3-0 victory at the 2012 Summer Games (in which she managed to score a goal). The second highest all-time goal scorer in the history of FIFA women’s soccer, her shoulders look strong enough to carry the expectation of USA Soccer on them.
Paralympic athlete Oksana Masters also appears in the publication. Despite her affliction, she proves that people with disabilities can also be beautiful. Born in the Ukraine, Masters was a double knee amputee due to birth deformities caused by radiation poisoning inuterio. Rowing since the age of 13, Masters is as inspiring as she is beautiful. In a society where people with disabilities fight for equality, there is also a sexual struggle that exists. A struggle that the Body Issue may help to overcome.
Former bronze medalist at Beijing, Ronda Rousey (featured on one of six collectible covers) is one of the top female athletes in Ultimate Fighting. While UFC is not everyone’s sport of choice, Rousey has proven that it is not just the ring girls of UFC (such as Arianny Celeste) that are the attractive females of the promotion. Having co-hosted on the syndicated television program TMZ, the top ranked fighter is quickly becoming a household name.
Despite their stunning beauty, these captivating images will augment discussion and debate among sports purists. Whether these images are art or filthy is not a topic to be discussed here, but the publicity (and controversy) has resulted in fans already clamoring to see which of their favourite athletes will be in the 2013 edition.