Top 15 Female Athletes You Didn't Know Did ESPN's Body Issue

The first Body Issue came out in 2009. It had six covers, each featuring a different athlete. The issue proved a great success, but not everyone was thrilled with the idea of athletes posing nude. This generated a lot of controversy and some of the athletes who posed for the issue over the years have also been criticized. However, as years went by people got used to the concept and the issue has seen its detractors reduce in number. As a result, more athletes are willing to be featured and the issue is now published annually, with the latest one coming out in July this year. The issue has been beneficial to athletes as it brought about modelling contracts and sponsorship deals for some of them. The athletes who take part in the lesser known sports have also been able to create a new fan base for themselves and in turn, introduce more people to their sport.

Compared to their male counterparts, female athletes usually get more attention with their photo spreads. However, not all female athletes gather as much attention as the likes of Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey. Here are 15 of them.

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15 Agnieszka Radwanska

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Radwanska is a professional tennis player known for her creativity on the court. When she posed poolside for the 2013 Body Issue, it caused an uproar in her native Poland. She was criticized by Catholic groups after her picture was featured on the cover of one of the country's most popular news magazines. Radwanska was an ambassador for a Catholic youth group known as Youth Crusade.

Youth Crusade ran a campaign called "I am not ashamed of Jesus", which Radwanska had taken part in back in 2011 by posing for a picture with the Polish spelling of Jesus written in tennis balls. However, they weren't happy with Radwanska's nude pictures and dropped her from the group.

Despite the backlash from this group, Radwanska has remained active in her community, as she has supported Habitat for Humanity and its project in Warsaw.

She's still trying to reach the top of the tennis world.

14 Adeline Gray

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Adeline Gray is a wrestler. She is a three-time women's wrestling champion having won gold at the 2012, 2014 and 2015 World Championships. She also won bronze at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. With quite a number of people still viewing wrestling as a male sport, Gray has been subjected to a couple of sexist remarks throughout her career.

Having posed for the 2016 Body Issue, Gray aims to get rid of misconceptions about female wrestlers and to help provide young girls who want to get into sports with an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

Gray recently commented on some of the dated opinions she still gets to this day.  "I still get that sideways tilt of the head, like a puppy is looking at me: "Women wrestle?" It's almost disheartening, because I work very hard and it's a very competitive field internationally, and people in our country just don't really know about it."

13 Dallas Friday

via espn.com


Dallas Friday is a wakeboarder who has won the gold medal at the X Games four times. In her rookie season, she won the title at the Americas Cup and was a silver medallist at the X Games. Her first gold at the X Games came the following season, she was only 14 at the time. The 2003 and 2004 seasons were her best for she won all but one pro event in each of the seasons. With an abundance of World Titles to her name, Friday has been a huge influence on other women in her sport. She was featured in the 2015 Body Issue.

She said doing the issue was a great way of putting some of her past insecurities behind her:  "When I was transferring from gymnastics to wakeboarding, I was a little self-conscious. There's not a huge difference going from a leotard to a bathing suit, but you'd see these beautiful girls in bikinis, and I'm only 13 or 14 years old with this buff little body. I grew into being really proud of it, knowing that that's what has enabled me to do what I do."

12 Danyelle Wolf

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Danyelle Wolf is a boxer. She was prompted to get into boxing after people kept asking her whether she was a fighter while she was training to be a triathlete. She proved to be a fast learner and eventually started getting into big tournaments. Her prowess in the ring led to her becoming the USA Boxing National Champion thrice and the Continental Champion twice. She was featured in the 2014 Body Issue.

Like many women pursuing a traditionally male dominated sport, Wolf says she often had to deal with people telling her not to get into boxing. "At first, they told me I couldn't do it because I'm a girl. But I stuck with it. Now I'm a two-time USA Boxing national champion, continental champion and I'm on Team USA."

Wolf is a great example for any young woman having to overcome dated values in the world of sports.

11 Megan Rapinoe

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Megan Rapinoe is a footballer who plays for Seattle Reign FC. As part of the United States women's national soccer team, she won gold at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and silver at the 2011 World Cup. She also won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. She has played for the national team for a decade and has over 100 caps for the United States. She is also well known for putting up good performances in major international tournaments.

Having come out herself, Rapinoe has shown support for LGBT organizations and hopes to bring about equality in sports. She was featured in the 2014 Body Issue. She was obviously very well toned, which showed off her extensive training, but Rapinoe says she finds alternative ways to train for 90-minute matches. "I hate the idea of a traditional gym. And I don't want to have to just run; I definitely want a ball involved, especially if we're running. That always makes it easier. Anything that is sort of new or interesting, not totally traditional, is kind of fun, like yoga. But I don't like running."

10 Stacy Sykora

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Sykora joined the USA Women's volleyball team in 1999. The previous year, international volleyball had introduced a new defensive position known as the libero and after some encouragement from her coach, Sykora tried out for the position which earned her a spot on the team. She won numerous accolades while playing in this position and as part of the national team, has competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, winning a silver medal in the latter. While playing for a Brazilian volleyball team in 2011, she got injured when the bus which was carrying her team crashed on its way to a match. She had head trauma and was in the intensive care for a while.

While her state improved, she was eventually forced to retire from playing professional volleyball because she was not fully recovered. She posed for the 2012 Body Issue, months before announcing her retirement.

9 Anna Tunnicliffe

via annatunnincliffe.com


Anna Tunnicliffe is a sailor. She has medalled several times at the World Championships and is a two-time ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, having won twice at the ISAF Sailing World Cup. She took part in both the 2008 and the 2012 Summer Olympics, placing fifth in Women's Match Racing at the latter and winning gold in the Laser Radial at the former. In 2014, she announced her retirement from Olympic sailing.

Following her retirement, she continued to compete at the CrossFit Games, with her best finish so far coming in 2013 where she was ninth overall. She was featured in the 2012 Body Issue.

When asked why she posed for the Body Issue, Tunnicliffe replied: "I want the world to see sailing as an athletic sport. A lot of people think it's a nice cruise around the bay, cocktail in hand, gentle wind, sunny conditions. But racing is physical and aggressive. And we go out rain or shine."

8 Emma Coburn

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Emma Coburn is a middle distance runner. Having been keen on running the 800 meters at first, she instead landed on the steeplechase. This change of direction eventually paid off as she is a four-time United States National Champion in the 3000 meters steeplechase. She qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and came in 9th in the 3000 meters steeplechase final. She has admitted to running around 80 miles a week and not taking a day off. Her shoot for the 2016 Body Issue took place in her hometown of Creston Butte, Colorado.

Coburn has said she never had problems with her body, so doing the Body Issue seemed like a no brainer to her. "I've never been self-conscious about my body. I never really thought much about it. It's just kind of the vessel that lets me do the things I like to do. It never dawned on me to think about it beyond that."

7 Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Walsh Jennings competed on both the volleyball and basketball teams while in high school, thanks to her loftiness (she's 6 ft 3). She led her school's basketball team to a state championship and did the same with the volleyball team thrice in a row. She eventually dropped basketball and started playing volleyball professionally. She finished fourth while playing on the U.S women's indoor team at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Together with her partner Misty May-Treanor whom she competed against while in high school, she went on to win the gold medal in women's beach volleyball at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Walsh Jennings was actually five weeks pregnant during the 2012 Olympics. It was during this pregnancy that she posed for the 2013 Body Issue both before and after giving birth. She said she was more nervous about doing the post-birth pictures than pre-birth.


"I was big and rotund when I'm usually the opposite, but it was really comfortable because I felt almost like I was in costume,' she told ESPN. "But for the second (shoot), I was two and a half months out from having a baby. I'm supposed to be tight and toned and strong, but I have a lot more work to do."

6 April Ross

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


April Ross is a professional beach volleyball player. She played indoor volleyball in high school and has also played on the U.S Junior National Team. Together with her former beach partner Jennifer Kessy, she won the FIVB World Championships in 2009. The two won the silver medal in women's beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympics after losing to Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, their compatriots. Incidentally, Ross teamed up with Kerri Walsh Jennings following the retirement of Jennings's partner Misty May-Treanor. She posed for the 2016 Body Issue, just like her partner did in 2013.

Ross has said she prides herself on being fit for her sport. "Sometimes the idea of a beach volleyball body gets mixed up with the casual beachgoer, lay-out-in-a-bikini type. For me, I value the power of my body, and I think I'm a little more muscular than you might expect. I don't consider myself thin, and I'm not trying to look great in a bikini -- I'm trying to be as strong as possible and as powerful as possible for my sport."

5 Amy Purdy

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports


Amy Purdy is a snowboarder. In her late teens, she contracted a form of bacterial meningitis which affected her circulatory system, causing her to lose both kidneys. She also had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee. However, she was able to overcome many adversities which included kidney failure, and after receiving prosthetic legs, she began snowboarding seven months after she lost her legs. Purdy took part in the 2014 Winter Paralympics where she won the bronze medal in Snowboard Cross. She co-founded an organisation that helps physically disabled people who want to get involved in action sports or art and music.

She was featured in the 2014 Body Issue and claimed that she wanted to inspire others to challenge themselves. She also said that she doesn't want to be seen as a disabled athlete, but rather just an athlete. "I'm over having people feel sorry for me." That was my attitude going into the [amputation] surgery. "Do what you have to do so I can get out of here and get on with my life."

4 Tarah Gieger

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Tarah Gieger is a professional motorcross racer. Having been interested in surfing at first, she switched to motorcross when she was ten years old. She is a seven-time X Games medallist, with one gold, four silver and two bronze. Motorcross isn't exactly the safest sport and Gieger has had to deal with some serious injuries including a broken neck and pelvis, the latter of which left her in a wheelchair for two months.

However, none of her injuries have managed to put her off the sport as she claims to have gotten better at dealing with the pain. Gieger was featured in the 2013 Body Issue in which she posed while riding her bike.

Although she hasn't won a gold medal since 2008 she's still very well known in the sport and still has plenty of time to go.

3 Swin Cash

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Swin Cash is a basketball player who currently plays for the New York Liberty. She won two national titles while playing for her university's women's basketball team. She was the second overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft and was selected by the Detroit Shock, whom she led to their first WNBA Championship title the following year. While playing for the U.S women's basketball team, she won the gold medal at the 2004 and the 2012 Olympics. She also won gold with the team at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women. She posed for the Body Issue in 2013. In June, she announced that she was going to retire at the end of the 2016 season.

When asked why she posed, Cash said the following: "As women, why should we have limitations? Why should I just be limited to only being an athlete?” Cash told ESPN. “I’m breaking out of all those boxes that people tend to put athletes in.”

2 Courtney Conlogue

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Courtney Conlogue is a surfer. She has been competing professionally on the World Tour for about six years now and currently occupies the top spot in the world rankings. Conlogue posed for the 2016 Body Issue. She revealed how her previous participation in track and field inspired her to get involved with gym training, which is quite important for surfers nowadays. She also shared that breath training is quite important for her sport, as one is required to be good at holding their breath underwater.

She was able to demonstrate her skills in that sector as some of her shots were taken underwater. These included one in which she is shown rock-running, which is one of the ways to work on holding one's breath. As a result, hers are some of the most picturesque photos to ever be featured in the Body Issue.

1 Miesha Tate

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Tate started fighting in freshman year of high school. She wrestled on an all boys team throughout high school and apparently got some pretty rough treatment for the first few weeks as she was new to the sport and had no idea what she was doing. She stuck around however and her determination eventually paid off when she won the Washington Women's State Championship during her senior year. After watching her first amateur fight, she became interested in the MMA and after an impressive 5-1 amateur record, she turned pro. She then wrestled for some small organisations before debuting in Strikeforce where she eventually became the Women's Bantamweight Champion, until Ronda Rousey came along.

She then joined the UFC where she is the former Women's Bantamweight Champion after she was defeated by Amanda Nunes. Tate posed for the Body Issue in 2013 in order to show that female fighters can still be feminine.

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