For the fifth time in its publishing history, ESPN: The Magazine is publishing its Body Issue. Featuring male and female athletes that appear nude, eight different covers are available. The female athletes which grace the variant covers include funny car driver Courtney Force, X-Games participant Tarah Gieger, soccer player Sydney Leroux and beach volleyball legend Kerri Walsh-Jennings.
Basketball legend Swin Cash, currently with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky appears in the magazine. She follows in the footsteps of other WNBA athletes such as Diana Taurasi (2010) and Candace Parker (2012). Of note, Taurasi and Cash both played collegiately with the Connecticut Huskies.
Of all the female athletes that appear in the issue, the most artistic and unique photo belongs to Kerri Walsh-Jennings. Having won three consecutive gold medals in beach volleyball in the Summer Games (2004, 2008 and 2012), Walsh-Jennings gave birth in between two photo shoots for the magazine.
One photo shows Walsh-Jennings while pregnant, and the other shows her holding her newborn baby in her arms. While she is not the first pregnant athlete to pose for the magazine, softball hero Jessica Mendoza appeared in the inaugural edition of the Body Issue, her images side-by-side reflects pure art.
A pair of X-Games competitors, Tarah Gieger and Elena Hight is both part of the 2013 edition. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Florida, Gieger started racing professionally as an 18 year-old. The first gold medal of her X-Games career would come in 2008 during the first-ever women’s super cross event.
Hight is a competitor in the winter version of the X-Games. Having started snowboarding at six years old, she would participate at the 2006 Torino Winter Games and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Her greatest legacy in the sport is becoming the first-ever snowboarder to land a double backside alley-oop rodeo in halfpipe competition. She would brave the elements wearing only her snowboarding boots during the photo shoot for the Body Issue.
The youngest daughter of Funny Car national champion John Force, Courtney becomes the second member of the Force family to appear in the Body Issue. Her father actually appeared in the publication in 2011. At the age of 21, she won her first competition in the Top Alcohol Dragster category during an event in Seattle.
Three years later during 2012, Force would become the third woman to win a TF/FC (Funny Car) race by winning The Northwest Nationals. In 2013, she would make more history as the first woman to claim first place in the O’Reily Auto Parts Winternationals. For her photo shoot, Force is stranded in the middle of desert with only an empty gas can. She would have no trouble finding someone to help fill her tank.
As one of America’s female boxing heroes, Marlen Esparza forgets her trunks but brings her gloves for the Body Issue. A bronze medalist from the 2012 London Summer Games, she is only 24 and is poised for a great career ahead. As a role model for the Latina community, she also has endorsements with Cover Girl and was featured in TV ads for Coca-Cola and McDonalds.
Scottish golfer Carly Booth is a 20 year-old phenom that represents the future of the sport. Her photo shoot involved some driving practice wearing only her golf shoes at the scenic Chelsea Piers in New York City.
The 2006 Ladies Scottish Open marked her professional debut while in 2008, she would be the youngest player ever to compete with the British team in the Curtis Cup. At the tender age of 17, she qualified for the Ladies European Tour, the youngest Scot ever.
Appropriately, the 2012 Ladies Scottish Open represented her professional tournament win. During the three-day event, she wouild prevail by only one storke as she finished with a score of -4. Forty-two days later, she would emerge victorious again. In a playoff victory over Caroline Masson and Anja Monke, she won the Swiss Open with a -12 score.
Of all the female athletes that have appeared in the Body Issue, Agnieszka Radwanska suffered controversy for it. The number-four ranked women’s tennis player in the world is part of a religious cause in her native Poland. It was a campaign aimed at Catholics to not be ashamed of their beliefs.
Having also served as a WTA ambassador for Habitat for Humanity, the compassionate tennis player found herself disqualified from the cause.
Voted as the Most Popular Player in the WTA in 2011 and 2012, her legacy in tennis is one where she has made history for her homeland. In 2007, she became the first Polish player to win a WTA title and the first to be ranked in the WTA Top 10. Having also reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2012, she was the flag bearer for Poland at the 2012 London Summer Games. In 2013, she would become a receipient of Poland’s Gold Cross of Merit.
One of Ronda Rousey’s biggest rivals, Miesha Tate will challenge her for the Bantamweight title on December 28. While Rousey appeared in the 2012 edition of the Body Issue, Tate’s appearance marks the second consecutive year that a female UFC fighter is featured. As fans anxiously await the renewal of the most intense female rivalry in mixed martial arts, Tate also challenges Rousey in the looks department.
Having started their rivalry with the Strikeforce promotion, a title match between the two was the main event of a March 3, 2012 card in Columbus, Ohio. While Rousey defeated Tate for the title, it proved that women could headline a mixed martial arts card.
Born in Canada, Sydney Leroux is a competitor with the US women’s national soccer team. Her American father, Ray Chadwick was a former baseball player with the California Angels. Having also played for the Canadian Under-19 team, her associations changed in 2008.
Having played at the NCAA level with the UCLA Bruins, her career in the W-League was impressive. With the Vancouver Whitecaps, she was the youngest player ever to debut for the team at 15. A stint with the Seattle Sounders was followed by her current role with the Boston Breakers in the National Women’s Soccer League.
During the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, she scored five goals in a 13-0 whitewash of Guatemala. Perhaps more impressive was the fact it was only her second cap with the US team. As the youngest member of the squad during 2012, she would help them to a gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games.
While these remarkable women cover a wide range of sporting endeavors and unique backgrounds, all of them have broken ground in their respective sports. Although the exposure of one’s physique may not be for everyone, it is the utmost representation of sacrifice and hard work. Sending an empowering message, the barriers these women have shattered, and the odds they have overcome makes them role models and symbols of a great future in women’s sport.