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ESPN Body Issue 2013: Posing Athletes Whose Popularity Will Skyrocket

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2013

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

ESPN The Magazine's: The Body Issue is one of the most highly anticipated magazine issues to hit newsstands on a yearly basis and this year's edition is no different. With male and female stars from a variety of different sports and backgrounds posing in the buff, it is truly a unique presentation.

While well-known athletes such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall and Olympic gold medal-winning beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings are the main draws, several lesser-known athletes stand to gain legions of new fans.

Here are three athletes in particular who figure to have much stronger fanbases as ESPN The Magazine's: The Body Issue photos continue to make the rounds.

Courtney Force

As a member of the legendary Force racing family, Courtney Force was born into the business. Her father, John, is known as the greatest NHRA drag racer and funny car driver of all time, but Courtney is still making a name for herself. Courtney's older sister Ashley has already become a drag racing star, but the 25-year-old Courtney is rising up the ranks as well.

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It is debatable whether or not Courtney has or ever will have the driving talent that her dad possesses, but there is no denying the fact that her physique puts her father's to shame. Courtney posed for several photos for The Body Issue and is one of a handful of athletes chosen to grace the cover. Courtney is clearly happy with the way they came out as she promoted her involvement with The Body Issue on Twitter.

While Courtney is already a big star among drag racing fans, the sport doesn't really have mass appeal. Now that sports fans have seen what she has to offer from a physical perspective, however, maybe they'll make an effort to explore the world of drag racing. Force has the body of a fitness model, but also the know-how necessary to handle a car that can break 300 mph. That combination will increase her fandom significantly.

Sydney Leroux

Striker Sydney Leroux is one of the fastest-rising stars in women's soccer, but it's likely that most casual followers of the sport don't really know much about her. With bombshells such as Alex Morgan and Hope Solo garnering much of the attention, there isn't much spotlight left for the 23-year-old, Canadian-born product. Leroux has chosen to compete for Team USA due to her dual citizenship, and American soccer fans will soon be fully aware of her presence.

Leroux is in much the same spot that Morgan was a couple years ago as she largely comes off the bench late in matches to provide a goal-scoring spark. Leroux has been very successful in that role with 17 goals in 38 matches for the senior women's national team. Now that Leroux has decided to pose, look for her to reach a level similar to Morgan and Solo in terms of popularity. Leroux posted a video of her Body Issue experience on Twitter to get people talking even more.

Along with Morgan, Leroux is the future of American women's soccer in the United States and perhaps even across the world. That is quite a large burden to carry, but Leroux has the soccer ability, charisma and looks to pull it off. Women's soccer reached a new level after Solo was featured in The Body Issue last year and Leroux will continue that progress.

Tarah Gieger

X Games fans are already well aware of Tarah Gieger as she is a three-time Summer X Games medalist in super motocross. The 27-year-old Puerto Rican native is one of the biggest female stars that extreme sports have to offer, but the X Games still aren't considered to be mainstream. Because of that, fans of more traditional sports probably haven't gotten an opportunity to see Gieger in action.

That will certainly change for anyone who purchases The Body Issue, though. Gieger is a focal point of the magazine as she poses in three separate photos. Gieger is clad in nothing other than boots as she rides her bike through rough and muddy terrain. While Gieger isn't likely to make a habit of competing in the nude, the photos are definitely enough to pique the interest of people who weren't necessarily knowledgeable about motocross before.

It's very difficult for X Games stars to become household names as it can be argued that Tony Hawk and Shaun White are the only two people who have been able to do it. With that in mind, it's even more difficult for a female X Games athlete to break through. Gieger now has a major stepping stone to use to her advantage, though, and she could become a very big deal if she continues to perform well and hone her craft.

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