The matter of athletes posing nude has always been a polarizing subject. Some are of the opinion that this only serves to sexualize them thus taking away from their talents and achievements in their respective sports. However, some believe that this is a way to empower others to be comfortable in their own skin and let go of their insecurities by appreciating themselves as they are. The fact is, some people will always be for it and others against it. Regardless of people's opinions, there has been an increasing number of athletes who are willing to pose nude. The increase can be attributed to the numerous lucrative endorsements and modelling jobs that come about as a result of doing such shoots. Some athletes have in fact built successful modelling careers for themselves while still pursuing their profession and even after retirement. However, some athletes tend to be recognized more for their photo spreads and less for their talent thus no longer getting respect when it comes to their profession.
Female athletes get more offers to pose nude and even more backlash when they accept compared to their male counterparts. Still, their appearances on magazines are usually more hyped and are actually highly anticipated. While some athletes make sure to strategically cover some body parts in their shoots, others gain notoriety when they do not. However one chooses to pose, it can't be denied that athletes who decide to take this step are already quite brave in their own right. While some opinions might differ, we can all agree that posing nude almost always leads to instant recognition. Here are the 25 female athletes who decided to do their photo shoots sans wardrobe.
37 Victoria Vanucci
Despite starting to play tennis at a very young age, Victoria Vanucci was never well known. This is because shortly after becoming a professional player, she sustained a shoulder injury that swiftly put an end to her career. She however wasn't forgotten either courtesy of appearing in the Argentinian edition of Playboy in 2006. Her shoot was done on the Roland Garros tennis court.
She was thus able to build a modelling career for herself after her retirement.
35 Diana Taurasi
She was already a star while playing for University of Connecticut's women's basketball team, earning her a first overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2004 draft. Nowadays, she balances her time playing for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA and UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League. On top of her numerous accolades which include being named the 2009 WNBA MVP, she also snagged the cover of ESPN's Body Issue in 2010. She said that she wanted to celebrate her body and everything it had been through and done.
34 Stephanie Gilmore
In 2005, the Australian surfer entered her first world tour event as a wild card competitor and won. After winning another of these events the following year, she finally qualified for the 2007 Women's ASP World Tour, where she won four of the eight events and claimed the 2007 World Title. She is currently a six-time champion on the women's ASP World Tour having won in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014. She posed for ESPN's 2011 Body Issue and said she found it liberating for it helped her stop stressing about her insecurities.
33 Petra Niemann
Petra Niemann is a former yacht racer who competed in three Olympic Games (the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics). Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she along with three other German Olympians posed for the German edition of Playboy. The magazine thus had four alternative front covers for each of the women. She decided to incorporate her sport into the shoot as she was shown tugging on a sailing rope.
31 USA Women's Water Polo Team
It's not a common occurrence for a team to collectively do a nude shoot but this one did just that for the ESPN Body Issue. The shoot included both singles and group shots with the team being arranged in varying heights to create two 'waves'. The other part involved an underwater shoot where they were asked to drop down in rows. It sure takes a lot of skill to pose underwater.
29 Ineta Radevica
The Latvian athlete used to compete in the long jump and triple jump categories. She placed 13th in the triple jump and 20th in the long jump at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Despite underachieving at the tournament, she still gained a lot of popularity after she posed for Playboy that year. After placing fourth at the 2012 Summer Olympics, she decided to retire, never having fulfilled her dream of earning a medal at the Olympics.
27 Lolo Jones
Jones competes in the bobsled and track and field categories, specializing in the 60 and 100 meter hurdles. She thus has the distinction of being among the few athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. She posed for the 2009 ESPN Body Issue together with the likes of Serena Williams and Gina Carano. She was initially against posing nude but decided to do it in order to send young girls a message not to starve themselves so they can be skinny.
25 Katharina Scholz
Scholz took part in the 2008 Summer Olympics as a field hockey player. In 2008, she was among the German athletes who appeared on four alternative front covers of Playboy's German edition. According to her, the four hadn't previously met to discuss the matter thus their decisions to take part in the shoot were made independently. She claimed to have done it because it was a good opportunity but stated that she had no plans to pursue a future in modelling.
23 Rachel Yurkovich
Yurkovich is a javelin thrower who was the NCAA women's javelin champion in both 2008 and 2009. She took part in the javelin throw at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London but did not medal in either of the tournaments. She was among the athletes featured in the 2010 ESPN Body Issue with her shots involving her readying to throw a javelin.
22 Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson is a professional snowboarder who won the gold medal in the Inaugural Women's Slopestyle Event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She's also medaled nine times at the Winter X Games, with four gold, three silver and two bronze. She featured alongside Venus Williams and Coco Ho in the 2014 ESPN Body Issue where she was shown lying on the snow.
21 Paige Selenski
Selenski is a field hockey player whose plays as a forward. She competed for the United States Women's National Field Hockey Team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and attributes her quick speed to running track in high school where she specifically specialized in sprints. She put her athletic body on display in this year's ESPN Body issue and stated that she wasn't afraid to show it off. Clearly.
20 Ali Krieger
Krieger is a defender for the United States Women's National Soccer Team that came second at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and won it this year. She also won the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2008, while signed to one. FFC Frankfurt during a five year stint in Germany. She posed for ESPN's Body Issue this year right before heading for an auspicious campaign at the Women's World Cup.
18 Leticia Bufoni
Bufoni is a professional street skateboarder who started skating at the age of nine. She has been ranked as the no. 1 street skateboarder in the women's category four years in a row (2010- 2013) and became the only female athlete to win three X Games gold medals in the same year. She therefore predictably picked a skateboard as her prop of choice when she appeared on this year's Body Issue for ESPN magazine.
17 Coco Ho
Coco Ho comes from a family of surfers and has won over 25 surfing awards. She began surfing at the age of seven and as a child, made an appearance in the 2002 surfer film Blue Crush. She incorporated her surfing skills into her shoot for ESPN's Body Issue which took place on a beach. She stated that she didn't feel as if she was being sexualized for she was only showcasing her body as an athlete and not lying on a bed.
16 Gretchen Bleiler
The snowboarder won a silver medal in the women's halfpipe at the 2006 Winter Olympics and medaled five times at the Winter X Games, four of them being gold. She's posed nude a couple of times including on the cover of FHM wearing only body paint, and on Jane's magazine where she was covered by a sheet. In 2011, she was one of the athletes to get a cover in ESPN's Body Issue. Before doing the cover, she claimed to have first discussed it with her mom and husband and revealed that she planned to give her extended family a heads up before the issue came out.
15 Chantae McMillan
Chantae McMillan is a heptathlete who used to compete in the long jump while still in high school. She represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics and at Pan-American Cup this year, placing 5th in the latter. She was featured on this year's ESPN Body Issue where she admitted that she doesn't follow a strict diet but burns off all the food with her intense workout.
14 Romy Tarangul
Romy is a German judo athlete who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she placed 9th overall and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London where she reached the quarterfinals. She also took part in the 2008 European Championships and the 2009 World Judo Championships where she won silver and bronze respectively. In 2008, she was one of the four German Olympic athletes to appear in their country's edition of Playboy.
12 Natalie Coughlin
Coughlin is a 12-time Olympic medalist, six of which were won at the 2008 Summer Olympics, thus setting a country record. She was once the recipient of the World Swimmer of the Year award and has amassed a total of 60 medals in major international competitions, 25 of which were gold. She was featured on the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and on the cover of this year's ESPN Body Issue.
10 Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey became the biggest star in all of MMA due to her dominance over the women's bantamweight division, first in Strikeforce, then in the UFC. While her undefeated record earned her recognition, her charisma and confidence in her body helped her star grow. Rousey posed for ESPN The Body magazine back in 2012. Rousey decided to pose after she caught her ex-boyfriend putting pictures of her on his computer. She decided it'd be better if she was the one who got pictures out first:
"If there's naked pictures out there, I'm going to go take naked pictures myself and I'm going to put it out there on my terms.”
Rousey has also since posed topless for ESPN's Swimsuit Issue.
9 Haley Cope
Some female athletes have credited Amanda Beard for giving them the courage to pose nude. However, she wasn't the first swimmer to appear on Playboy as Haley Cope had already set the pace in 2004. The shoot was in line with her profession as it took place beside a pool. Having once held the world record in the 50-metre backstroke, her other achievements include 8 World Championship medals and a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
8 Aly Raisman
Raisman is an artistic gymnast who won gold with the American team at the 2011 and 2015 World Championships. She also made a mark at the 2012 Summer Olympics where she won gold medals in the team and floor exercise competitions while also earning a bronze medal on the balance beam. She demonstrated some more skills on the balance beam when she posed for this year's ESPN Body Issue where she stated that gymnasts are more ripped than anyone else. Well they also happen to be the most flexible.
6 Khatuna Lorig
Khatuna Lorig is an archer who earned a team bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She is also responsible for teaching Jennifer Lawrence how to shoot with a bow in preparation for her starring role in The Hunger Games film. She seemed to have the movie in mind when she posed for the ESPN Body Issue as the backdrop of her shots looked straight out of the film's set. Her shoot is definitely a contender for the most scenic.
4 Williams Sisters
Venus is a force to be reckoned with at the tennis court and she has the titles to prove it. Together with her sister Serena, they are among the most successful tennis players of all time and are virtually unbeatable when they play together in the doubles. Despite her upward trajectory being slowed down when she contracted an autoimmune disorder in 2011, she has managed to prove that her talent isn't lost and is currently ranked World No. 7. In 2014, she was featured on ESPN's Body Issue.
She wasn't the first to appear in the issue though, as her sister Serena made a controversial appearance on the cover in 2009.
3 Hope Solo
Hope Solo is mostly known for her role as the goalkeeper for the United States Women's National Soccer Team. With them, she's won two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and also the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. She posed for ESPN's Body Issue in 2011, an action which she found empowering. She claimed that she'd finally gotten over the insecurity she previously had over having an athletic frame.
2 Alicia Sacramone
Having won a total of 14 World medals, she is one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of the World Championships. She was also part of the US team that won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2011, she managed to take some of the hype away from Hope Solo when they both posed for the Body Issue of ESPN magazine. Her shots which showed her striking various poses on the balance beam were actually quite artistic and among the more memorable ones from the issue.