“I was definitely a little firecracker,” Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson, who first qualified for the Winter X Games in snowboarding in 2004 at the mere age of 13, tells ESPN. Four Winter X Game victories later, Anderson found herself standing on the podium in Sochi wearing the gold medal for the first-ever women’s slopestyle event.
“I don’t think I’m your typical rock-hard ripped girl. But that’s what I love and embrace about myself,” says Anderson, who practices yoga for flexibility and meditates to keep her from “freaking out” right before a contest. When asked what her favorite body part is, Anderson replied, “I don’t know, maybe my freakin’ booty!”
Five-time Wimbledon victor and tennis legend Venus Williams didn’t think twice about being in the buff. “It didn’t dawn on me until right when I walked on set that I would have to be without clothes,” admitted the cool, collected athlete.
Williams knows her body now more than ever. The tennis star was recently diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes symptoms ranging from dry eyes and mouth to arthritis. “In the past, I would train until I died,” she recalled, explaining that today she’s learned to push herself while accepting her body’s limits. “You have to accept that you’re never going to be 100 percent,” says Williams. “So, how do you get past those roadblocks?”
“Yeah, whatever,” a nonchalant Michael Phelps told ESPN the Magazine as he stripped down (check out those blinding tan lines). “A Speedo doesn’t really hide that much anyway.” The most decorated Olympic athlete of all time (he has a whopping total of 22 medals. But who’s counting?) took a break from the pool following the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Now Phelps is out of from retirement and training for his comeback at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“Oh, I was fat. I got fat and out of shape,” he says of his body during his hiatus. “I lost 25 pounds in probably six weeks—just working out two hours a day, eating healthy—it shed right off.”
Super Bowl champ Marshawn Lynch talks big game—about any game. “Michael Phelps wouldn’t have been on the Wheaties box if I stuck with swimming,” boasted the Seattle Seahawks running back. Lynch stands at 5’ 11,” weighs about 215 pounds of pure muscle, and pokes fun at his powerhouse physique, saying: “I got to show some love for the fat backs.”
All jokes aside, Lynch is unapologetically confident with his body and has even trained with a mixed martial arts coach to get him to his highest caliber. “Even though I get butt-a** naked, I’m still gonna let my body do the talking for me,” he asserts. “I’m cool with my body, I love my body. I wouldn’t trade it for no other body.”
Fresh off the high of Team USA’s impressive streak in the FIFA World Cup, defender Omar Gonzalez, who regularly plays for the LA Galaxy, is showing off his winning backside in ESPN The Magazine. But for this sexy soccer star, big and bulky are the last things he wants. “I don’t really care how much you can lift in the gym,” says Gonzalez, admitting that he can probably do only five pull-ups. “For me, I have to be strong for my sport, so I can compete at the highest level. I may not have been the biggest, but when it came down to playing, I shut people up.”
When Danyelle Wolf was told she couldn’t be a boxer because she was a girl, she could have given up; instead, she used that criticism to fight even harder and is now a two-time USA Boxing national champion. “I’m obsessed with being self-disciplined,” she told ESPNW. “I’m very persistent. I don’t stop until I get where I want to go.”
When asked what she loved about her body, Wolf replied, “I love everything about my body. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say they hate something about their body. Why aren’t you doing something about it if it bothers you so much?”