We Americans are currently living in a renaissance. The fabled melting pot that is our society has resulted in a gene pool so vastly diversified and strengthened that our athletes are not only among the winningest in the world, but the downright sexiest. As Russia’s considerable pool of athletic sexiness wallows in its pre-Olympic doping scandal (sorry Maria Sharapova, I think I speak for all of the U.S. when I say we still love you) and athletes all over the world get fitter and fitter, we’ve still got the men and women that turn heads from Sydney to Tokyo—the long way around.
From rock climbers to fighters and football players to futbol players, the men and women of America’s professional sporting communities make ten-pack abs and perfect posteriors look natural, as though they didn’t take years of endless work to sculpt. Sometimes looking at them hurts your eyes and makes you feel like nothing you ever do or say could be as beautiful as these people. Sometimes they really make you want to start working out. No matter which way you turn it, America loves hot athletes and some of the hottest call America home.
This year’s Rio Olympics will mark the best—or last—chance at medalling for some of our most beloved athletes, but it will also be a gathering of some of the world’s fittest people in one of the most legendarily sexy cities on earth. Olympic villages are already known for their liberal attitude toward athlete-on-athlete hookups, and once every two years an Olympiad renews my dream of becoming good enough at curling or marksmanship—anything that requires relatively little exercise—and get in on the party. It’ll likely never happen for me, but for these 25 Americans, whether they’re competing in Rio or not, Olympic Village-level interest is pretty much guaranteed year round.
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20 Serena Williams
Helen of Troy might have had the face that launched a thousand ships, but Serena Williams has the bottom that won a thousand trophies. Serena’s lower half is so perfectly sculpted it should be in a museum and yet there it is, running back and forth, stopping on a dime and helping to produce the most crushing forehand power women’s tennis has ever seen. In addition to being the single most dominant athlete of the past decade, male or female, American or otherwise, she’s also a graceful champion. And her lower half, but I’ve mentioned that already.
19 Elena Delle Donne
Did someone order a down-to-earth Chicago girl who rains jumpers and is far quicker on the uptake than they are? Oh, that’s right—everyone wants one, they just didn’t know it until now. She shot 95% from the free throw line last year for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, better than anyone in the NBA. Then she turned around and decided to be someone who cleans up incredibly well. Red carpets might not be her natural habitat, but she fits in just fine.
18 Heather Hardy
A rags to riches story that makes Ronda Rousey look like her grandfather donated a building to Harvard, Heather Hardy is a New York boxer--who needs all that MMA fanciness anyway--and is as beautiful as she is tough. She goes by the nickname "The Heat" and it's easy to see why. An Irish-American bombshell who survived every kind of hardship from assault to poverty, Hardy decided to make the boxing ring her outlet. All I can say is that while I'd love to make her charmingly chuckle, I'd never want to piss her off.
17 Leilani Mitchell
The Phoenix Mercury point-guard is an American of Australian extraction who runs lightning quick circles around her competition at a compact 5’5’’. Because the WNBA doesn’t pay as well as its male counterpart, Mitchell spends her off seasons playing in leagues around the world, making her a hustler, a remarkable on-court talent, and incredibly beautiful to boot. She also spends a great deal of time down under, taking the 2014 season off to train with the Australian National Team and spend some time on the beach.
16 Rachel Wray
Don’t confuse her with Rachael Ray, as she’ll make you regret it. Wray used to be a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, but left the gridiron for the octagon and started professionally competing at mixed martial arts. The “Southern Stunner” does not look like someone who gets punched in the face for a living and one can’t help but hope it doesn’t get completely destroyed in the ring.
15 Lindsey Vonn
Before she took a spot in the most dangerous relationship in sports—the first Woman to date serial cheater and adult star aficionado Tiger Woods after his much-publicized divorce, Vonn was just known as a beautiful and talented skier. With 20 World Cup crystal globe trophies, she is the most successful skier of all time in addition to being by far the sexiest. Whether she’s on camera after a record-breaking downhill run or on a beach wearing nothing but paint for a photoshoot, she always makes good TV.
14 Lolo Jones
A dual sport Olympian, excelling in both track & field and bobsled, Lolo Jones better represents the American melting pot’s ability to produce a preternaturally beautiful athlete. Jones is of Native American, European and African-American heritage. No word yet on which continent contributed the genes for those legs, but I’m not sure that matters anyway.
13 Misty May Treanor
One half of America's most dynamic and successful beach volleyball duo, Misty May has gone from an athletic phenom to a national treasure after her once-every-four-years TV performances. A three-time Olympic gold medalist and the most successful U.S. beach volleyball player to date, she spends her days running on sand. Sust ask Rocky and Apollo Creed: that gives you great legs.
12 Alana Blanchard
Alana Blanchard is a professional surfer, which gives her an advantage to begin with, but she’s also a model and seems to spend more time on Instagram than competing. But that’s just fine with her fans, who get to see her in a bathing suit regularly whether it’s through social media or surf videos. Blanchard is also a devoted vegan, so don’t expect to take her out for a steak dinner to seal the deal.
11 Miesha Tate
Before she beat Holly Holm early in 2016, Miesha Tate was thought of as one of the UFC’s most attractive fighters. She hasn’t gotten any less beautiful, but her victory over Holm by a vicious rear naked choke means that now she’s both the prettiest and the most lethal. Her inevitable next clash with Ronda Rousey will mark a battle of beautiful brawn and there’s no telling who will come out on top this time around.
10 Danica Patrick
Her days of teasing male fans for GoDaddy.com seem to be passing, but Danica Patrick is still just as sexy today as the first time she appeared on screen wearing nothing but a godaddy logo. The first woman to compete in NASCAR, Patrick is tough as nails, can hang with the boys—no matter how backwoods they might be—and still rock a bikini and heels (at the same time) like she was born on a runway.
9 Natalie Gulbis
Latvian-American professional golfer Natalie Gulbis has the body of Kate Upton and the athleticism of an olympian rolled into one. She’s only got one LPGA tour win so far, but she’s finished in the top 10 more than 30 times. She’s also a frequent swimsuit model, and appeared in the 2012 SI Swimsuit Issue.
8 Skylar Diggins
Skylar Diggins is yet another piece of proof that sports fans everywhere are missing out by scoffing at and ignoring the WNBA. Along with fellow knockouts Elena Delle Donne and Leilani Mitchell, Diggins represents the hottest WNBA class of all time. The 5’9’’ point guard and Notre Dame alumna has smarts on the court and off, as well as what may be the best set of eyes in sports.
7 Hilary Knight
The star of the U.S. Women’s Olympic ice hockey team, Hilary Knight probably had to deal with all kinds of people telling her to trade her pads for figure skates, and instead she decided to become the best damn hockey player the U.S. Women’s team had ever seen. The 26-year-old forward from Palo Alto will hurt you if she has to, but she’d rather just skate around you and make you look stupid. It’s worth it to watch her skate away.
6 Alex Morgan
World Cup winner Alex Morgan looks too pretty to do anything, let alone run miles and miles at a time while crashing into women from every corner of the globe. It’s not entirely clear how opposing players can share the pitch with Morgan and still keep their attention on the game. Do they not feel the need to avert their eyes whenever she’s on the ball? She’s one of the best parts about women’s soccer enjoying a TV renaissance and there are plenty of great things about it—no diving, anyone?
5 Blair O’Neal
Pro golfer and model Blair O’Neal was a two-time NCAA long-drive champion before turning pro and winning Golf Channel’s Big Break: Dominican Republic. She’s got a jackhammer drive that can travel up to 308 yards, a gorgeous blonde mane and a body that could be used to save the planet in the event of a fatal drool shortage.
4 Sierra Blair Coyle
On the website of pro rock climber Sierra Blair Coyle, you’re just as likely to find photos of her bloody knees and chalky hands as photos of Sierra in her sports bra. It might be a rarity in these Instagram-driven times, but Coyle’s no-nonsense style on the mountain translates perfectly into her online persona. And her sports bra definitely makes an appearance.
3 Christmas Abbott
The most famous crossfitter in the country, Christmas Abbott is the quintessential internet celebrity athlete. The 5’3’’ fitness pro is the author of The Badass Body Diet and appears on the cover leaving little to the imagination. The most heavily tattooed lady on our list, Christmas is a new breed of athlete: badass, unorthodox and fit as hell.
2 Paige Spiranac
She became a viral sensation after her college golf team, the San Diego State Aztecs, created a trick shot video and put it on YouTube. We’re extremely glad she was discovered this way, because since then Spiranac has become an LPGA pro and an internet sensation in her own right. With the help of her short game and her unbelievable good looks, this 22-year-old California stunner enjoys drawing attention to her outfits on Instagram as much as walking the course.
1 Ronda Rousey
She may have lost her first fight, but Ronda Rousey bounced back in one of the sexiest ways possible: She had Sports Illustrated paint a tiger on her and take some pictures in the nude. Rousey is the best-liked and most electrifying fighters in UFC, and her return is the most anticipated bout this decade. But whenever she decides to clean up and strike a sexy pose, the world holds its breath.
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