ESPN Body Issue 2013: Athletes Looking to Debunk Stereotypes

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJuly 10, 2013

Photo by Williams - Hirakawa, ESPN The Magazine
Photo by Williams - Hirakawa, ESPN The Magazine

There are many different reasons why athletes choose to pose for ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. 

For some, it's really not all that complicated: They want to show off their bodies. They've worked for most of their lives establishing themselves as some of the very best athletes in the world, and doing something like this likely serves as a deserved prideful moment. 

For others, it means a little more and offers the opportunity to debunk stereotypes. 

Whether athletes are proving their sport is, well, actually a sport, or that they've still "got it," this opportunity gives them the avenue to, in a way, prove themselves to the sports world. 

Let's take a closer look at some impressive people from that latter group. 


Courtney Force, NHRA Funny Car Driver

For some, the general belief surrounding race car driving is that it's not a sport. Some might argue there isn't as much physical exertion compared to other sports. Others might feel that if they can get their Geo Prisms up to 70 while eating Cheetos on the freeway, then they can certainly drive a race car around in a circle or in a straight line. 

Moreover—and this is the kicker—some believe there is absolutely no athleticism involved in race car driving. 

Well, Courtney Force says cockamamie to those ridiculous misconceptions, per ESPN:

A lot of people think that as a race car driver, you just sit in the seat and mash the throttle and it's just a 4-second run and it's easy. But there's a lot that goes into it. You need a lot of upper body and core and leg strength to drive a 10,000-horsepower racecar. I hope we can capture that. It bothers me when people think we aren't athletic.

Consider it captured, Courtney. 

The daughter of the famous John Force looks to be in unbelievable shape in her Body Issue photos, and it's quite clear that if you aren't a full-on athlete, you aren't going to be able to handle race car driving—which is indeed a sport in every definition of the word. 


Gary Player, Golfer

My goodness. If I look one one-billionth as good as Gary Player when I'm 77 years old, I'm going to consider myself an extremely lucky man. 

In an interview with ESPN, Player stated his simple purpose for accepting the role as the oldest athlete in the upcoming magazine:

I have this great ambition to show the world how fit you can be at this age. People retiring at 65 is a joke. I'm almost 78—if I retire, I'd be dead in one year. I still work on my ranch, I do golf course design, I'm traveling seven months a year. You've got to keep moving. 

Player has always been renowned for taking incredibly good care of his body, and this is simply more proof that life doesn't have to vastly slow down after 60 or even 70. 

The nine-time major winner should serve as motivation for us all. 


Kerri Walsh Jennings, Beach Volleyball Player

Just like age isn't slowing down Player, pregnancy isn't slowing down Kerri Walsh Jennings. 

The three-time Olympic gold-medalist and one half of the most dominant beach volleyball tandem of all time was kind enough to provide a "before-and-after" shot, proving to the world that having a baby doesn't mean you have to fall out of shape. 

Not only that, but it also doesn't mean you have to stop playing sports professionally, either. Walsh Jennings, albeit without Misty May-Treanor, has said that she will return for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. 

The mother to three is truly a physical specimen—and just another example that hard work and determination can always trump silly, lazy stereotypes.