Sport Sport Focus Athletes explain why they’re so keen to get their kit off
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Athletes explain why they’re so keen to get their kit off

carolinewozniackiphotoshoot
Caroline Wozniacki posed without clothes for ESPN's Body Issue. Photo: ESPN
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Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, you fabulous, fabulous women.

How beautiful it was to see you both, on the same day, butt naked and super confident, as headline-making cover girls for glossy magazines.

Serena cradled her baby bump for Vanity Fair, while Caroline showcased her form in ESPN’s annual Body Issue.

“If I don’t look like a supermodel on the runway, that’s okay,” said Wozniacki, whose standout photo led a gallery of naked male and female stars.

“Because I look good in my own way.”

Yes, you do, lady.

And it’s all about strength, not sex.

It’s about accepting a naked body as a figure of power who can bolster the body image of others.

Predictably, the covers sparked debate about whether the images were exploitative, unnecessary and objectified women, and whether getting their kit off in full living colour undercuts or boosts athletes’ achievements.

Do we need to see sporting heroes in the raw, or is it enough to see them swinging golf clubs or whatever else they do best, and leave the modelling to the pros?

Whatever team you’re on, buckle up for more of the same.

A step up from David Beckham’s honourable attempts at smouldering in underwear campaigns, nude athletes are a growing trend.

MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, skier Lindsey Vonn and Wozniacki have appeared in nothing but body paint for Sports Illustrated‘s Swimsuit Issue, while Serena’s older sister Venus got nude for ESPN’s Body Issue in 2014.

It’s more of an American thing, although in the past Australians including swimmer Michael Klim (who used a mackerel to preserve his modesty) and pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva – who opted for an unobstructed full-frontal – have had a crack at it.

And athlete Jane Flemming wore only gold paint for a now-infamous 1995 “Golden Girls of Sport” calendar.

“Have a look at the kit we run or swim or dive in, there’s not much there,” said Flemming.

“It’s only skin. We are not exposing our emotions, our souls.”

And that is exactly the point.

Williams and Wozniacki are showing off the hard-earned bodies which are the actual instruments of their fame and fortune.

It’s liberating to see them so confident in showing their human sides.

The images and the decisions behind them embody empowerment, not exploitation.

Serena Williams
The 35-year-old tennis star plans to return to the court in January. Photo: Vanity Fair

These are athletes who are at the top of their games, financially, emotionally and physically.

They did the shoots willingly and with obvious pride, and probably had creative input into the concepts.

All athletes have limited career spans, and leveraging looks and fame is a basic pragmatic reality.

If they can cash in by showcasing their dedication by showing us their works-of-art bodies, good luck to them.

Polish tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska, once ranked No.2 in the world, explained her choice when she was accused of immorality in 2013 for posing naked by a swimming pool full of tennis balls in ESPN‘s Body Issue.

“These pictures are not meant to cause offense and to brand them as immoral does not take into account the context,” she wrote on Facebook.

“I train extremely hard to keep my body in shape, and that’s what the magazine is all about.”

With 72 singles titles, including 23 grand slam wins and prize money of over $90 million, Serena Williams is a powerhouse who takes pride in backing women’s achievements and has had to defend her own, time and again.

She’s not going to be taking off her clothes for a magazine unless she wants to.

And that should be good enough for everybody else.

Her statement is clear: I love my intimidating, productive body. Look at what it can do.

We should celebrate with her.

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