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Aesthetics, diversity and uniqueness of athletic physiques.

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Flying in the face of the usual clichés of beauty dominating western magazines, ESPN Magazine’s hotly anticipated “Body Issue” celebrates the aesthetics, diversity and uniqueness of athletic physiques.

For the occasion, a number of high-profile female athletes – lesbian and heterosexual – bared their souls (and a good deal else). They speak of their relationships with their bodies and their “differences.” Chosen excerpts.

Ali Krieger (Soccer)

Everyone makes fun of my calves. I don’t really even like them, I don’t really want them as big as they are, but I have no choice. In college, girls would come up to me: “I want your calves.”

My thighs too; I feel like I have big thighs. My brother was always like, “Yeah, I want big thighs! Big thighs are awesome!” And I’m like, “Yeah, for a man!” But I’ve trained since I was 6 years old to play soccer. I’m proud of my thighs because they’ve gotten me to where I am today and give me the power that I have to play my best.

Brittney Griner (Basketball)

I’m comfortable in my body. Honestly, I like how unique it is. I love being different. If everybody was the same, it’d be a boring-ass world.

I’m sure people are going to have a lot of critical things to say [about these photos]. “Yo, she’s a man!” But hey, that’s my body and I look the way I look. People are either going to accept me for who I am or they’re not. I don’t know what people think I’m hiding. I’ve heard, “Oh, she’s not a female, she’s a male.” […] I just want people to see somebody who embraces being naked, embraces everything about them being different.

When I was younger, I definitely got picked on for my size and my voice, which has always been deep. They teased me about everything. I’ve always been flat-chested. I remember the “cool girls” would reach out and touch my chest: “Yep, nothing.” I felt like less than a person. It definitely weighed on me. I just wanted to be one of “the normal kids.” I used all that teasing as my fuel, honestly.

I want to tell my younger self, and kids who are going through what I went through: Don’t be scared to reach out and grab some help. Don’t try to fit in. Be who you are, express yourself. I got called a boy all the time. […] I don’t like labels. But gender roles are instilled in you as a kid. I was told to pick which one I wanted to be-masculine or feminine. I’m like, well, I kind of want to be both, because that’s who I am.

Sadena Parks (Golf)

Once I started playing competitively, I started noticing my surroundings, and I did not relate to anyone. I grew up playing basketball and track, and there were lots of minorities doing those things, so it made me feel at home. In golf, I felt like I was out there alone.

“You guys can’t play golf.” I’m just going to say “you guys” because the word that this Caucasian gentleman used was so hurtful, so historic that it brought tears to my eyes at the age of 13. […] My skin color doesn’t give me a good excuse to say “I’m not capable.”

Being an only child and just growing up with my father, I didn’t know what girls did with makeup or hairstyles. I grew up just kind of being the person that I am and accepting myself for who I am. I didn’t even realize there was a certain way that girls acted and boys acted. […] I feel like it’s just crazy.

To see the complete gallery: http://espn.go.com/espn/photos/gallery/_/id/13174028

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