For decades, female athletes have had to rely as much on looks as their talent to get ahead. Yes, skill on the field is important but looking terrific doing it also helps. With the advent of social media, it’s even bigger, with female athletes using it to enhance themselves and that also includes magazine shoots. For years, Sports Illustrated has used actual sports stars along with their usual models for their swimsuit issues and more have done magazine shoots to highlight their great appearances and enhance their standing.
You can argue that some ladies were far better lookers than players and often trading on them to get a bit more ahead. So it’s more impressive when you see a gorgeous lady that can back it up with numerous championships and proof you can look gorgeous and still be a top-notch athlete. It’s interesting to see how many of these women who seem model like figures could have become models for real and do a great job there. It’s not for everyone; as hot as Ronda Rousey may be, modeling isn’t something you equate with her while the Williams Sisters are a bit too buffed out to be typical models. Here are 20 athletes who could easily have gotten themselves another career as models and done great there but we’re more than happy to see them realizing sports was their true calling.
19 Natalie Gulbis
Her resume isn’t exactly stellar with only one LPGA tournament win. However, Gulbis’s amazing beauty can never be denied, utterly gorgeous when walking in shorts and polo shirt, nice legs and chest and her long blonde hair flowing well behind her. When she donned a painted bikini for Sports Illustrated, it proved how modeling was her true calling and thus her skills were much better suited for that field than gold to give her amazing looks the showcase deserved.
18 Blair O’Neal
She’s the classic case of someone more famous for her looks than her real game, her only success in golf more in the reality game field. O’Neal has taken off more for her use of social media with popular Twitter posts and showcasing her stunning body in swimsuits and underwear, her long blonde hair and form perfect for the modeling game. She doesn’t do well in golf but O’Neal can certainly hit a hole in one in terms of rocking a hot photo shoot well.
17 Natalie Coughlin
As a 12-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin takes to wearing a swimsuit like a fish to water only far more alluring. Even dressed up, she looks amazing with her brown hair and pert features and excellent body condition. Her magazine shoots have included bikinis as well as a paint swimsuit for Sports Illustrated that she did better by than most of the real models. As incredibly successful as she is as a swimmer, Coughlin could have more than worked taking the plunge in modeling too.
16 Courtney Force
Her pert nose sets her apart as does her terrific body with curves, ample chest and nice legs that she often has covered for her job as a drag racer. Courtney is quite appealing with a ESPN magazine spread where she barely had her breasts covered by her arms and her long blonde hair looking glorious. She trades on those looks a lot but still a good racer and her promotional appearances add to her appeal to prove Courtney could have been quite the Force in the modeling game if she’d chosen.
15 Daniela Hantuchova
Her tennis game has sadly faltered in the last few years, not surprising given her longevity in the sport. However, Hantuchova shows the alluring beauty of ladies from Europe with dark blonde hair framing a face with a lovely smile and deep eyes that captivate. She showed off amazingly in ESPN Magazine, perhaps thin but still the curves in the right places to win you over especially with her great legs. If she hangs it up in tennis, Hantuchova could easily move onto modeling and do a fine job with it as well to continue as a winner.
14 Caroline Wozniacki
Her singles wins aren’t as huge as others but this Danish star more than shows off well on court with her blonde hair and lithe body on display when playing. She’s shown off in swimsuits and yet she has a nice down-to-earth charm that adds to her beauty quite nicely. With those innocent looks but also a killer body, Wozniacki could have moved to the modeling game better than on the court and shown off in both areas to make a real name for herself.
13 Kim Glass
This multi-medalist in volleyball was known for her striking power and terrific presence on the court. She looks more like an “America’s Best Top Model” contestant with her lush hair, her ebony skin standing out and when on red carpets, she looks utterly stunning. She showed off in ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue in a striking photo and proves that she’s not as fragile as her name but perfection that could have made a magical modeling career to be sure.
12 Alana Blanchard
As a surfer, Blanchard is more than used to showing her body off and has done so on several occasions, including spreads in SI and other magazines. She has a bright smile and truly at home in a bikini on the waves, enjoying the water and it adds to her grand appeal. It’s more than easy to imagine her shifting to a modeling career, bright and eager and whether on the water or out of it, she would have more than made some nice waves.
11 Hannah Teter
A groundbreaker for snowboarding, she’s a gold medalist who’s helped enhance the sport nicely and as great as any guy (if not better) with her moves on the snow. Per her job, she’s covered in winter clothing but has shown in spreads like ESPN Magazine that she can really be a knockout, often in just a bikini while in snow settings and her good humor wins fans over to rise well. If there’s a lady who could prove how hot modeling can be, Teter is certainly it.
10 Ana Ivanovic
A rising star in tennis, this Serbian native is getting plenty of attention not just for her play but also for her terrific looks. She’s done some shoots that showcase fantastic legs and an alluring smile that entices you. She’s concentrating more on improving her game but Ivanovic can have quite a promising modeling career ahead of her as well to prove how ladies of her native land have a special something to get guys going.
9 Katarina Witt
When she broke out as a skater for what was then East Germany, Witt’s beautiful features and amazing form on the ice made her quite popular as she won two Gold medals at the Olympics and gave a rise to figure skating. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, she was able to reach a wider audience and getting more famous with various appearances. In 1998, she did a spread in Playboy that showed off a stunningly curvaceous body that proved Witt’s appeal. She’s retired but still looking amazing and how alluring women from the former Iron Curtain could be.
8 Lindsey Vonn
One of best ski racers around, the Gold medalist and World champion usually spends her time covered head to toe for her work. Get her out on a beach or on a red carpet and Vonn is truly an All-American girl with her blonde hair and alluring manner and you have to respect someone who wears a bikini in the middle of the mountains. That alone is proof Vonn can handle the rigors of the job and excel as one lady who gets hot no matter the setting.8. Gabrielle Reece
Here’s a case where you have plenty of evidence modeling could have been just as perfect for Reece as her work as a star volleyball player. She did numerous covers for “Elle” magazine and others to show off her very toned body and proving someone with the looks of a cover girl could be a gritty athlete as well. A famous bit was her guest-starring on the series “Arliss” as herself saying she’d never do “Playboy” as she wanted to be taken seriously as an athlete. Sure enough, in 2001, Reece doffed it all for a spread and it was sensational, proof that she could have never picked up a volleyball and still have been a major star.
7 Danica Patrick
While she’s yet to win any major racing titles, Danica Patrick has gotten attention as one of the few women to really get ahead in a mostly male-dominated sport. That she could have been a model has been proven by her work for GoDaddy and other places, her famous Super Bowl ads and more. With her lush dark hair and face combined with a body that looks amazing out of her track suit, Patrick has showcased that if she’d gotten into modeling, she’d have gotten plenty of mileage in that field.
6 Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh
You have to list them together as in all things. The most dominant female volleyball pair in history, they’ve crushed the competition and earned themselves every championship imaginable, including Olympic gold medals. Few look as amazing in sports bras and shorts like they do, terrific in their game and each a knockout in their own right. Misty might have gone a bit further in the modeling game but Kerri was just as lovely and each shows off toned legs and rears that can get them ahead. Together, they were dynamite on the beach and while they wouldn’t have had that partnership in modeling, it’s hard to imagine failure there either.
5 Jennie Finch
Her All-American girl looks are a key to her appeal as Finch has been a star of the U.S. Women’s softball team that’s won a couple of gold medals. Finch has shown off wonderfully in magazines, her lovely smile helping win your heart over and can certainly show off inside of a swimsuit or a red carpet dress. She has her medals and her victories but Finch’s amazing looks show she could have easily been a regular model and still be a winner.
4 Anna Kournikova
It’s a bit harsh but still true: Kournikova was always known better for her looks than actual talent on the court. She never had any serious wins or championships but still made a mint with her promotional appearances and pushing herself as more famous than other tennis stars. You can understand why with the way she filled a bikini and showed off long legs, a dazzling smile with her long blonde hair adding to the picture. Retiring young due to injury, Anna might have been better served with a modeling career to put her looks to better work.
3 Amanda Beard
Whether blonde or brunette, Beard has showcased a terrific swimmer’s body, a seven-time Olympic medalist who’s more than comfortable in a swimsuit. She’s also comfortable out of it as showcased by her spread in Playboy that got plenty of attention and showcased a very toned form. In the water, she’s terrific working her form but Beard also shows a model’s grace and form that could have led her to a career there but the Olympics certainly did well by her.
2 Trish Stratus
The evolution of Trish Stratus is one of the best in all of wrestling. In 2000, she was just eye candy, coming out in push-up outfits to enhance her strong chest and toned rear end and enjoyed flaunting it in the ring. She soon transformed into one of the best female wrestlers of her time, a terrific worker who could put on a terrific match with almost anyone. She could still show off wonderfully in photo shoots of swimsuits and skimpier outfits, proving she had classic model looks that could have been a great career there. She still looks amazing in her yoga work to showcase how a body so amazing could also be an awesome worker.
1 Maria Sharapova
The blonde hair, the way she fills a bikini, the smile, those eyes, her name, Sharapova could have easily been a star model in every way. Instead, she’s the only Russian to hold a Grand Slam title, one of the top players in the game today and no signs of slowing down. On the court, she’s terrific, all business yet still looks utterly gorgeous even covered in sweat. Off the court, she has a nice sense of humor and her spreads in SI and other magazines showing her proud of her body. To see a woman so gorgeous so on top of her game is a truly amazing achievement that shows why Sharapova is so popular.