Every summer, ESPN The Magazine publishes a special summer issue that is just about as stripped down and all-access as it gets. I am speaking of course about its annual Body Issue, which celebrates the many shapes, sizes, and forms that elite athletes can take. The Body Issue has made it a part of its mission to feature groundbreaking firsts in every issue. So who has been featured in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue in the past?
The Body Issue features athletes across the gender spectrum, but these six women all represent very important firsts for the publication. Since 2009, The Body Issue has been compared to the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition, but it is more a celebration of the human form and its many constructions rather than a reinforcement of the beauty ideals that magazines often feature. Some of the female athletes who have been featured in The Body Issue in the past have even commented on their own personal struggles with body image.
The 2016 issue of ESPN The Magazine Body Issue launches online on July 6, and hits newsstands on July 8. In honor of the latest issue's release, here are some of the other strong women who have been featured in The Body Issue through the years.
1. Serena Williams
Serena Williams was featured on the cover of the inaugural issue of the magazine back in 2009.
2. Sarah Reinertsen
Sarah Reinertsen was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a condition that required her leg to be amputated above the knee when she was just seven years old. But Reinertsen was never one to shy away from a challenge, and began running seriously at age 11. She was competing at the international level in just two years. She was featured as an alternate cover of the very first Body Issue in 2009.
3. Philippa Raschker
In our society, the fact of the matter is that older men are celebrated while older women are too often reminded that they have a shelf life after which they can no longer be considered "sexy." Masters track and field athlete Philippa Raschker puts those myths to rest. She continued seriously competing through 2014 when she was a mere 67 years old. Raschker was featured in the 2010 Body Issue (she had recently turned 64).
4. Kerri Walsh Jennings
The gold medal beach volleyball star and expectant mom was pregnant with her third baby when she posed for the 2013 Body Issue, showing the world that just because an athlete wants to have a family doesn't mean she can't kick butt at sports, too. Jennings actually won an Olympic gold medal with doubles partner Misty May-Treanor after the birth of her second child... while she was pregnant with her third.
5. Megan Rapinoe
In 2014, Megan Rapinoe became the first openly gay athlete to be featured in ESPN's Body Issue. This groundbreaking moment came about a year before Rapinoe would help her teammates win the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
6. Amanda Bingson
In the 2015 Body Issue, Amanda Bingson wanted to highlight that athletes come in all shapes and sizes, and that different body types are suited for success in different sports. "Whatever your body type is, just use it," she said, "There are definitely things that I can do that skinnier people can't do."
Images: ESPN The Magazine (3)