Professional athletes always seem to be making headlines for reasons related to money. Whether it's because they're holding out for a bigger contract, showing off ridiculously extravagant purchases or even filing for bankruptcy, we're constantly reminded that some athletes are obscenely wealthy.
Perhaps that's why it's so easy to forget that for most professional athletes, there's just a bit more work involved. Outside of major sports leagues, being athletically gifted just isn't enough to pay the bills. Training year-round requires athletes to attract sponsors, and attracting sponsors requires an athlete to be attractive enough that he or she doesn't make potential consumers recoil in horror.
Basically, it boils down to athletes selling sex. If you want to spend your days training for sports glory, sometimes you have to spend your nights in a bikini. In a perfect world, these exchanges wouldn't be necessary, but the world is rarely fair.
So, let's take a look at some of the hottest female athletes who are selling sex to fund their athletic endeavors.
I wonder if U.S. women's national soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo's new year's resolution in 2011 was to raise her public profile. That would explain how she managed to go from a talented but relatively unknown athlete to one of the most overexposed female athletes on the planet.
And I mean overexposed in every sense of the word, because she's run the overexposed gamut:
Reality TV: Solo appeared on Season 13 of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, and somehow her painfully clunky dance moves (or barely-there costumes) carried her all the way to the semifinals. Her elimination made global headlines because she handled it with the grace and dignity of an angry toddler.
Nearly Nude Modeling: Solo, brandishing a garden hose, appeared in ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue in 2011. And in 2012, she and tennis player Serena Williams appeared on the cover of Vogue in nude swimsuits.
It's not just sex Solo sells, she also sells misdirected Twitter rage—but that's for a different list altogether.
Slovakian tennis player Daniela Hantuchova has been turning heads since making her professional debut in 2002. She hit the ground running by winning four Grand Slams in mixed doubles early in her career and being ranked the No. 5 player in the world in 2003.
Today, at age 29, it seems that Hantuchova's best days on the court are long behind her. But her appearance on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's 2012 Body Issue proves there will be life after tennis for the beauty.
Hantuchova's blonde hair and girl next door sex appeal have been magnets for sponsors like Nike and Adidas, and earned her a feature in the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice stunned the world by winning three gold medals and setting three world records in the process. Despite competing in a sport that doesn't get much attention in between Olympics, over the last four years Rice has been one of the most buzzed about female athletes in the world.
Rice's fame can be attributed just as much to her headline-grabbing controversies and countless sexy modeling gigs as to her gold medals in Beijing.
In June 2012, Rice made waves without even being in a pool when she tweeted out a sexy bikini pic on Instagram to celebrate her 24th birthday.
Unfortunately, Rice failed to live up to her past performance at the 2012 Olympics in London, failing to win a single medal. But she has managed to attract worldwide attention for something else in London; Rice has been trying to squash rumors of an affair with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant after the two were spotted together all over London.
Recently, American track and field athlete Lolo Jones has faced a firestorm of criticism after failing to medal in the 100m hurdles for the second consecutive Olympics.
In 2008, a last-minute stumble kept the heavy favorite Jones off the Podium in Beijing and her hopes for redemption at the 2012 Games in London were dashed with a fourth place finish.
Jones entered the Games as one of the most hyped American athletes, but her loss left many people questioning what the famous Olympian with no Olympic success was really selling.
In recent years, Jones has been featured in various publications, including a semi-nude appearance in ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue in 2009. But it was her interview on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in 2012, in which she revealed that she was still a virgin, that really elevated her fame.
We all know sex sells, but apparently a lack of sex sells even more.
Figure skater Kiira Korpi is a three-time national champion in her native Finland, but she's had very little international success in the sport. Yet, the Finnish "Ice Princess," a nickname inspired by her resemblance to the late Grace Kelly, is relatively well-known throughout the world because she's got the looks of a Nordic goddess and the smile of an angel.
Nagging injuries have kept her off the ice for most of the last 18 months, so it's unlikely Korpi will ever win Olympic gold, but she can buy plenty of her own with all the money she's raking in from modeling jobs.
She's definitely not selling her skating anymore.
I'm not going to trash the abilities of NASCAR's most polarizing driver because, unlike many other female "athletes" selling sex, Danica Patrick is actually out there competing. Even though she hasn't had great success yet, Patrick is still young and is clearly committed to improving.
That being said, I think people would get off her back if she stopped appearing in her underwear until she appears at the finish line in first place. Patrick has every right to do whatever it is she wants to do, but it's damn near impossible to take her seriously after being subjected to those horrific GoDaddy commercials she's been doing for years.
Beautiful British cyclist Victoria Pendleton has been one of the standout stars of the 2012 Olympics in London. Pendleton contributed two medals to her home county's impressive total medal count; gold in the women's Keirin and silver in the women's sprint.
Pendleton has already announced her retirement from the sport, but the sport's preeminent glamour girl certainly won't be hurting for work. She's appeared in a number of sexy pictorials in various magazines in recent years, and marketing experts suggest she could earn as much as £1million per year from endorsements for companies promoting fashion, lifestyle and makeup.
Freestyle skier Lacy Schnoor is one of a great number of female athletes who is more recognizable for her snow-melting appearance in the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue than her success, or lack thereof, on the slopes.
After seven years of competing professionally, Schnoor qualified for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, but ultimately disappointed with a ninth-place finish. After the Vancouver Games, she seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, but Schnoor's disappearing act didn't stop Guyism from naming her one of the 66 Sexiest Female Athletes in the World in March 2012.
I guess they like a woman with a little mystery.
Following in the proud tradition of Russian tennis beauty Anna Kournikova, in 2008 French tennis beauty Tatiana Golovin retired from the game at the tender age of 20. Golovin had a very promising start, winning the WTA Tour's Newcomer of the Year Award in 2004, but chronic back inflammation seemingly ended her career before it even began.
Despite not having played the game for five years, Golovin still routinely makes her way onto lists of the hottest athletes. That could have something to do with her various modeling gigs, including a head-turning appearance in the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Italian adrenaline junkie Roberta Mancino is an extreme sports devotee and part-time model who was named the World's Sexiest Athlete by Men's Fitness magazine in 2010. Mancino has appeared in various states of undress in countless magazines, including Vanity Fair, Allure, Maxim and Men's Health.
And she's flung herself out of aircrafts and off of ledges and buildings all over the world. Even if you aren't the risk-taking type that finds BASE jumping and wingsuit flying sexy, Mancino's penchant for naked skydiving (she's done it four times!) might just change your mind.
Her can't-miss Facebook fan page is a treasure trove of seductive sex goddess stuff intermingled with draw-dropping daredevil antics.
There's also no question that when discussing the best in the world, 2003 Triple Crown Rookie of the Year Anastasia Ashley doesn't even factor into the conversation.
She may be nowhere to be found on the ASP's list of the top 100 female surfers in the world, but there's no question the resplendent Ashley would have no trouble cracking the top 10 most beautiful surfers in the world.
Ashley's limited surfing credentials haven't hurt her in terms of attracting sponsors or modeling work. In a recent interview with ESPN, Ashley revealed that she has been competing far less and just trying to master her favorite local waves in California and Hawaii.
Sounds to me like Ashley is edging slowly into a career in fashion, be it modeling or design; she considers the industry her second love.
Canadian-born race car driver Maryeve Dufault was interested in motor sports from a very young age and got her start racing in motocross and go-karts as a child. Dufault worked her way up the formula racing ranks and began stock car racing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series in 2010.
Racing hasn't been the 30-year-old's only focus over the years—far from it. Dufault first gained attention when she was named Miss Hawaiian Tropic International in 2000, beating out 35,000 wannabes in the process. Since then, she's gone on to appear in Maxim and Sports Illustrated and she's also had various bit parts on television.
But Dufault's most famous role to date was as one of Barker's Beauties in the long-running morning game show The Price is Right. To her credit, Dufault seems devoted to racing and says she only uses the modeling gigs to pay the bills.
In 2010, British golfer Sophie Horn took the interwebs by storm and was promptly deemed the sexiest woman in golf. Honestly, I have no idea how she burst onto the scene, but I know that it has little to nothing to do with her achievements as a professional golfer.
On her website, Horn is described as a "prodigious golfer," but other than that I have found no evidence that she even plays professional golf. I know that she once won a golf tournament in 2001, which apparently qualifies her to be GQ's resident golf expert, and that seems to be the long and short of the golf thing.
Horn has been paying the bills with TV presenting gigs and modeling work.
So if you want to see her play golf, you're out of luck, but if you want to see her pose in her underwear while holding a golf club, you are all set. I can't imagine anyone will be complaining about that.
Fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano has been one of the most popular figures in MMA since kicking off her Strikeforce career in 2006. Carano's definitely got it, and there's no doubt that her willingness to flaunt it was a major contributor in her rise to fame.
It seems her MMA career may be behind her. Carano's last fight was a decisive first-round loss to Cristiane Santos in August 2009. Since that defeat, she has found less painful ways to earn a living, like donning next to nothing for Maxim and GQ.
Carano has been profiled on ESPN's E:60 series and in 2009 she was one of the cover athletes in ESPN The Magazine's inaugural Body Issue.
In 2011, Carano officially made the leap from professional athlete to action star with her sexy starring role in the Steven Soderbergh spy thriller Haywire. As long as Ms. Gina is selling sex, people will be buying.
On the surface, the Lingerie Football League probably sounded like a can't-miss idea to whom I can only assume were a bunch of former frat guys spit-balling ideas for their next business venture. After all, people love football and they love sexy ladies in lingerie, so of course they would love sexy ladies playing football in lingerie.
The LFL did attract a number of fans during its three-year run in the United States, but not enough to sustain the league. A number of teams were dissolved after the 2010 season, and the entire league was put on indefinite hiatus after the 2011 season.
While it's looking more and more unlikely that the U.S. league will ever resume operations, the LFL is set to expand into Australia in 2013 and Europe in 2014. The Aussies haven't exactly welcomed the league with open arms; their first exhibition game received mixed reviews in the media.
It seems the days of lingerie football may be numbered, so enjoy it while you can.
If you're awesome enough to watch WWE Monday Night Raw, you know that the shapely and sultry Divas sell a lot more than their wrestling moves in the ring. Actually, I'm not sure if it's fair to single out just the ladies for selling sex, considering WWE champion CM Punk actually wears even less than them!
Over the years, Divas have routinely appeared in Playboy, Maxim, FHM and every other magazine that caters to hormonal young males. Despite flourishing modeling careers, Divas save most of their best moves for the ring.
It's not an uncommon sight to see them dancing on tables, hanging seductively off the ropes or going into full-on cat fight mode with each other.
Although she finished a disappointing 51st in the javelin throw at the 2008 Olympics, stunner Leryn Franco became one of the most buzzed about athletes in Beijing. Despite a very successful career as a model and former beauty queen in her native Paraguay, Franco was determined to make it back to the Olympics in 2012.
She spent the last four years training hard in between fashion shows and modeling gigs, and managed to make it to London. Franco improved on her performance significantly, finishing in 18th place, but she failed to make it to the finals.
In a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports, Franco confessed that she didn't expect to medal because athletics aren't her top priority, insisting her real career is in the media. Hopefully, that means we'll be seeing more of Ms. Leryn when she's not holding a spear.
I can say this about America: A pair of beautiful blonde twins will never go hungry. According to their website, NASCAR drivers Amber and Angela Cope are "the next big thing to hit professional auto racing." I am forced to take them at their word on this one, because the statement is so vague that I was unable to find any anecdotal evidence to support or refute the claim.
Their official bio paints the blonde bombshells (their words, not mine) as history-making trailblazers, but their only historic accomplishment is being the first set of twins to complete in one of the top three series in NASCAR.
Apparently it doesn't matter that their best finishes were 55th place and 130th place, respectively.
Naturally the fair-haired pair have been a lightning rod for criticism from both fans and fellow drivers who don't think they have any place in the sport. If things don't work out in NASCAR for the 29-year-old rookies, and they probably won't, off the track the two keep very busy with modeling work and fashion design.
And really, isn't that the point of all this anyway?
If only the LPGA Tour could attract even half the attention as Australian beauty Anna Rawson has over the years, they'd be doing much better in terms of ratings. After playing promising collegiate golf at the University of Southern California, Rawson joined the tour in 2008.
Although her official website refers to her as a professional golfer, Rawson hasn't competed since 2010 and the closest she ever came to a win was one top 10 finish in 2008. Yet she remains one of the most well known female golfers in the world because of her willingness to pose seductively with little more than a golf club.
Beautiful Brazilian identical twins Bia and Branca Feres regularly find their way onto lists of sexy female athletes. Although, referring to them as "athletes" at this point is a bit of a stretch. Bia and Branca used to perform together in synchronized swimming events, but their success was minimal and they no longer compete.
The pair have always attracted far more attention hanging all over each other out of the water than anything they did in the water. Oh, and apparently the twins recently each had their twins done, if you know what I mean—and I'm quite sure you do.