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Jul 6, 2015

  • Morty Ain

USA Track & Field hammer thrower Amanda Bingson spoke with reporter Morty Ain about taking it all off for the Body Issue, her American record in the hammer throw and what she’ll do if she wins gold in 2016.

For more from the 2015 Body Issue, check out espn.com/bodyissue! And pick up a copy on newsstands starting July 10.

Dense would be the right word for me. Generally when you look at athletes, you see their muscles and all that stuff; I don’t have any of that. My arm is just my arm — it’s not cut, it’s not sculpted. I don’t have traps bulging out to my ears; I have a neck. I don’t have a six-pack. My legs are a little toned, but they aren’t bulging out. I’m just dense. I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.

I broke the female record in 2013. I threw 75.73 meters, which is like 248 feet. There’s been a huge jump recently, for sure. Women didn’t start getting competitive on the world scene until the early 2000s; that was the first time it was in the Olympics for women. Before then, it was just men.

Hammer throw is essentially like a shot put on a wire. The hammer is about 4 kilos, or 8.8 pounds. You spin around three or four times, you let it go, and hopefully it goes far.

You just have to tape up your fingers and hope they don’t fall off. You have all this weight just hanging on the edge of your fingers, and with the velocity coming around it, it just destroys your hands. I get manicures every two weeks on my ugly hands and I’m all apologetic: “I know my hands are disgusting. I throw stuff. I’m sorry.”

I have a very strong core. For training, we do a lot of twisting motions because that’s what our event mainly is: twisting. But I don’t have a six-pack or anything else like that. I have, like, two rolls in the back, but I still think I’m pretty strong in my core.

The hammer is in control. You have to be long and loose. It has to be relaxed aggression. If you get pissed off at the hammer — like I always do at every practice, because it just never goes the way it’s supposed to — you tense up. But if you tighten up, it shortens your muscles up and it just goes nowhere. Then you are even more pissed off.

If I want to throw far, I’ll do a handstand. It gets my blood boiling. It gets the blood up to my head and it helps me get a little amped. We don’t really have crowds when we compete, so you really have to get yourself going.

I’m so weak in my arms. I can’t bench to save my life. I know it sounds really stupid when I say that. But for a thrower, I’m definitely on the smaller side and definitely not as strong as most of my competitors.

“I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.” Amanda Bingson

I’m a protein junkie. I put protein in everything. want me to eat 175 grams of protein a day, which is a lot. And so I came up with all of these different ways to put protein in everything. It’s unflavored, so I’ll put a full scoop into my mashed potatoes and just mix it up. I put it in chicken salad, egg salad; I put it in my pasta. I just made spinach-and-artichoke dip and I put three scoops of protein in there.

I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body. And I think it’s because I moved from Las Vegas to Texas. In Vegas, I was bombarded with all of these “double zeros” and Abercrombie models, these little people coming in for shows. I never wanted to be a part of that, ever. And when I moved to Texas, everyone here is just so open about their bodies. I see these big girls in these tiny little bathing suits and I’m looking at them like, “Man, these girls are so confident!” Now I just think, “I’m just going to throw far because I’m confident with myself and I don’t have to worry about what I look like anymore.”

You might be prettier and skinnier than me, but I’ll kick your ass in a game of one-on-one.

I first learned the word “fat” when I was in middle school. I never knew that I was the fat kid in school until a boy told me that I was too fat. I thought, “What does that mean?” I had always been so athletic and into sports; I didn’t think I was that fat. But everybody wants to fit that skinny ideal picture that we see on billboards all the time, and people would always remind me that that wasn’t me. So you just grow a thick skin. Like I said, I’ll still whip your ass if we ever got into a fight.

Whatever your body type is, just use it. There are definitely things that I can do that skinnier people can’t do. But then there are things that skinnier people do that I’ll never be able to do, like run a marathon. There’s just no way that will ever happen.

I was a giant. I was definitely the tallest and biggest girl all the way through high school. In middle school, I was about 175. Throughout high school, I played around 175, all the way up to 200. When I got to college, I stayed at about 200 pounds. And now I fluctuate between 210 and 215. But I embrace it. I love myself.

I got kicked off my high school volleyball team because I was too fat. I had been playing volleyball since I was in elementary school, and I was pretty good at it. But my coach told me that unless I lost 30 pounds there was no room for me on the team. I couldn’t lose the weight. I went with my mom to the doctor and we tried to learn all this stuff. I did everything I could and I could not lose it. So she kicked me off. There were other girls who were not as good as I was, but they fit into the uniforms. So that was her rationale. She said unless I lost 30 pounds then I couldn’t be on the team, even though I was pretty good at volleyball.

I’ve seen two people get hit with the hammer. One of them was in the ICU for about three months with a collapsed lung. The other was my teammate. I actually hit my teammate and she walked away from it. But when it happened, I thought I’d killed her. It happened in my sophomore year in college and we were practicing at UNLV. She didn’t think that I could throw that far, I guess.

If I medal in the upcoming Olympics, I’m just going to chug a beer. I’m going to get up on the podium and just go “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on it. I’m working on some things. Everyone will be looking at me like “trashy American.” But at least we’re still No. 1!

This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2015. Subscribe today!

Amanda Bingson Becomes Body Image Superhero after Baring it All for ESPN’s Body Issue

25 year old USA Track & Field hammer thrower Amanda Bingson became America’s favorite body image advocate overnight after ESPN released her photo spread for their Body Issue. “I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes,” she told ESPN.

Amanda looks big, powerful, and absolutely gorgeous in the photos that quickly went viral. In the ESPN article, she talks with confidence and humor about her sport, breaking records, and getting kicked off the volleyball team in high school for being too fat.

“I’ll be honest. I like everything about my body,” Amanda says.

“Whatever your body type is, just use it. There are definitely things that I can do that skinnier people can’t do.”

We are beyond excited to feature Amanda as this week’s Superfit Hero! She sat down to answer a few questions for us.

Can you give us a sense of what a typical week in fitness looks like for you?

I am currently training for our World Championships in August. A typical week for would be train about 3-4 hours a day 5 days a week. Rehab for about an hour a day, and then making sure I get my chiropractics, massages and cryotherapy session.
I know when I say I have to go get a massage people tend to think, “Oh you poor baby, I would love to have to get a massage” but I can assure y’all it is not a feel good massage. Most times I walk out like I got hit by a truck but it helps my muscles recover so I can continue to practice at the best of my ability.

What’s your favorite fitness activity? Is there something that no matter how many times you do it, you still just love?

Our biggest activity would be actually throwing. We really focus on the throw and the specific strength that we need to get “hammer strong” rather than overall strength like most other sports. But I suppose most anything could be a fitness activity — hiking, golfing, dancing, paddle boarding — they are all fitness activities and I love those too. I love most things that are physical and have to do with being outside. And if there is a competition that goes with it, even better.

I don’t know if it was the sport as much as my family and my close friends. I mean growing up in my parents construction business, my sister and I would go and work with them when we were younger during the summers. I remember I was power cleaning mailboxes before I even started playing organized sports in school and my sister would be in the office filing papers and helping my mom. And when I asked my dad why I had to do manual labor and Morgan got to sit in the AC he said because she could not lift the boxes (60lbs) and I could. I think that was the first time I realized that being bigger than my older sister wasn’t a bad thing – it was just different. So while my sister (who had always been smaller than me) was filing and doing computer work with my mom, I was outside helping my dad pour and pull concrete and building boxes because I was physically capable.

I think what my sport did the best for me is it gave me the opportunity to see both sides of the image scale. In what I call the “social world,” I am a big girl, and phase II morbidity obese. According to doctors I should be around 140 pounds because I am 5’6″ on a great day!! But I am 210 pounds. I have to shop in the XL section, boots that fit over my calves are impossible to find, so in the social world I am too big and people remind me of it. But then there is my world, the athletic world. I am a midget at 5’6″ and I am the skinny girl that people tell to eat a sandwich. And believe me I do. The women I compete with and along side are 5’9″-6’4″ weighing anywhere from 200-300 pounds and they are kicking ass in their events and sports, and I want to be like them. So being a hammer thrower I get to see both sides of it and it definitely helped me in loving my body. It is all about how you look at it though.

And finally, what’s your superpower?

I don’t know if it would be a super power but maybe with going with the flow and keeping my eyes open to new experiences. I’m always down to try anything or do anything to make a memory.

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Amanda Bingson, ‘ESPN’ Body Issue Cover Girl & Olympic Athlete, Talks Changing Imagery Of Women In Sports

If you want to know what kind of person U.S. track and field athlete Amanda Bingson is, ask her about what happened after she was in the Olympics. “I didn’t have any contracts, I didn’t have anything yet,” she says in a phone interview with Bustle. “So as soon as I got off the plane from London, after competing against the best Americans and the best people in the world, I was cooking orange chicken at Panda Express. I needed to pay my bills.”

Despite the fact that she’s a world renowned Olympian, an athlete who broke the American female hammer throw record in 2013, and made headlines by posing nude on the cover of ESPN Magazine’s 2015 Body Issue, she doesn’t seem like she would ever bullshit you. In fact, when she had to reschedule our interview for the next day, she expressed her regrets by saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be a fucking asshole. Oh! Sorry! I mean freaking asshole.”

It’s this kind of candor that made me warm to Bingson immediately. It also made me hopeful about what I called her to discuss: The image of the female athlete.

For me, growing up in a larger body was never an asset. I was 5’10” tall by the time I was 12 years old, but I didn’t (and still don’t) have an athletic bone in my body. While people assumed that I would play softball or basketball because of my size, I always ended perplexing them when the only thing I could really do was compose a killer sentence while organizing my patent leather shoes and stealing my mom’s lipstick. I knew girls like Amanda Bingson when I was young, and I was always in awe of the fact that they not only seemed proud of their large bodies, but that they actually knew how to use them.

I was surprised to hear her say that, because I’d spent my entire life assuming that female athletes were pretty much uninterested in anything else but their craft. That may have been true for a while, but only out of necessity. According to Bingson, there used to be pressure on female athletes to behave and look a certain way, so they could be taken seriously in a world that was dominated by men. Now, women are able to express themselves and their identities more, both on and off the field. For Bingson, it’s a sign of progress.

“I think that female athletes now are definitely starting to show their femininity a lot more on the field,” she muses. “Women in their uniforms, sweating profusely, is clearly not all we’re capable of doing. I think that it’s amazing how women are finally starting to recognize that.”

Rachel Murray/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

(Amanda Bingson thinks many female athletes are starting to be unafraid to show their feminine side.)

Still, the transition can be a little bumpy. After all, sexism is still alive and well, even in places where women are kicking ass and taking names. Bingson recalled a story about a particularly gorgeous girl in her event that a coach didn’t take seriously.

“My coach and I were having a conversation about how I was getting nervous about competing with this girl. She was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. She wasn’t trying or meaning to be, she was just naturally gorgeous. So, sitting there I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m so nervous, she’s gonna beat me and kick my ass.’ My coach was like, “Oh don’t worry, she’s too pretty to throw far.’ I was like…’Wait… what? Are you kidding me?'”

His comment stuck with Bingson, and she’s kept “too pretty to throw far” with her, propelling her to kill it every time she enters the field — even if she’s wearing a face full of makeup.

“I want people to say that about me, and then I want to come out and kick ass. That’s what girls are doing now, not only are they playing good but they’re looking good while they’re doing it, and that’s amazing.”

While femininity isn’t necessarily something that’s valued by all female athletes, it’s encouraging that women who do value it are finally starting to feel comfortable expressing themselves, even if their athletic bodies don’t fit the conventional standards of beauty.

Which brings me to Bingson’s amazing photograph on the cover of ESPN Magazine’s 2015 Body Issue, an image that instantly became a sensation due to the fact that A: Bingson is nude and B: She’s not thin. Suddenly, she became a body positive icon, with people repeatedly asking, “How does a woman of your size feel so confident?” However, there’s something that most people don’t realize.

It’s almost like a parallel universe. In everyday life, women are constantly trying to shrink themselves, and the words “big” and “fat” are often synonymous with “failing.” But Bingson’s world is totally different. In her universe, big is simply synonymous with awesome.

“When I actually made the Olympic team in 2012, that was the first time where I was like damn, these girls are big, these girls are powerful, they are doing it. You see all these different female body types, you see the weightlifters, you see the shooters, the equestrians, the basketball players, the swimmers, you see every kind of body type you can possibly imagine in this one place where we are all the best athletes in the world, period, hands down. That was the first time I was like damn, this is awesome. These women are awesome.”

And when it came to shooting the cover of the Body Issue, Bingson wanted to make sure that the awesomeness of it all was properly conveyed. While Natalie Coughlin and Jamie Anderson, the other two female athletes featured in the series are in somewhat sexy, playful poses, Bingson is the only woman who is practicing her craft. She says this was completely intentional.

“When I told them that I was willing to do it, I made it perfectly clear that I only wanted to do action shots, I didn’t want to do it just like me, standing naked, looking at you with a hammer,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that we got that because of what I was trying to convey, I didn’t want it to be a, ‘OK, I’m just going to stand here with my implement and hide something.’ I wanted to show my body for what it is and show my body for what it does, when it’s active. It’s not supposed to be sexy.”

And yet it is — but not within the typical lines of what we imagine from a “sexy” photograph. In fact, Bingson’s image on the cover of the Body Issue perfectly illustrates the shifting image of the female athlete: Instead of being a powerful image because it’s sexy, it’s a sexy image because it’s powerful.

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Still, Bingson remains humble about it all, almost as if she’s unaware of the statement her iconic cover has made.

“I’m not going to frame the magazine or anything,” she notes. “I’ll definitely keep a couple copies of the Body Issue and show the kids and grandkids if and/or when I ever have them.”

She pauses.

“Just to let them know they’re dealing with a badass.”

Images: abingson/Instagram; Getty

Born to Run: Why Track and Field Deserves Your Respect

I spend quite a bit of my time searching and perusing strength and conditioning info, programming theory, and other Breaking Muscle-worthy content even though I’m in high school and should be doing my homework.

I also do my best to keep an open mind about everything I read (unless it promotes the Smith machine). Most others at my age – high school teenagers who are terrified by the prospect of college applications – are preoccupied with social drama or celebrity news. I am proud to say I’m not one of them. My obsession with fitness is a bit more practical.

Reevaluating Your Beliefs

People do have dogmatic judgments about athletics and sport, though, and listening to their gripes makes you reevaluate your beliefs and your reasons behind them. Like the time last year when I was hanging around during gym class and overheard one guy, a junior varsity basketball player, say to another classmate, “Track is only for people who don’t have a sport.”

Excuse me? It was obvious that his exposure to track and field, otherwise known as the ancient sport of athletics, was limited to the half-hearted attempts at making us jog on the track that seemed to be the best our gym teachers could come up with on “fitness days.” I’m pretty sure that any 100m sprinter could have caught this guy in a foot chase and made him regret what he’d just said.

But because I don’t have an army of ripped track-and-field athletes at the ready to hunt down their detractors, I’ll just have to make do with my own rebuttal against this guy’s unique brand of asininity. Dude, if you’re out there reading this: here’s why track and field is a real sport, and one that you should respect.

Naked Runners and the History of Sport

Modern people agree that the Olympic Games are the pinnacle of sports proficiency, and within these competitions you will encounter the most agile, swift, strong, explosive, and coordinated physical specimens on the planet.

We can thank the ancient Greeks for the entire concept of the Olympics. They devised the festival for no other reason than to please the gods and thank them for the freedom to develop their physical prowess. The first sports in the Olympics were feats like wrestling, boxing, pankration (an intense hybrid of the former two) – and athletics.

That’s right. The oldest humans, on whose example we founded our own civilizations, didn’t care about foul shots scored or goals saved or the player with the newest Air Jordans. They cared about being able to defend yourself (either skedaddle or stand and throw a really big rock), to sustain yourself (go build your own shelter and kill your own game), and (because they all worked out like this) to look good naked.

Basis of Sport: Character and Athleticism

Humans had to hunt before they could plant, harvest before they could feast, and build stable cities before they could worry about arbitrary physical recreation using crude balls made of animal hide. The very basis of our existence, therefore, lies in the humble skill of running really fast.

All sports require this function. Even if they don’t require it directly, you’d be a sorry athlete if you couldn’t at least sprint 400m to save your skin. Having the ability to do so only improves your sport performance, no matter what.

You can call other activities – like football, baseball, and basketball – sports because they are also quests of self-betterment and pit competitive individuals against each other. That is the legitimate rationale behind “sport.” It applies just as well, even more fundamentally so, to track and field. What is running fast or far, if not a metaphor for the internal struggle against the body’s inherent laziness?

But don’t take the stance of the basketball jock. Don’t say that soccer, for example, is a sport because it “makes sense.” By which he means it has a defined time frame for the attention-deprived mainstream and commercial investment. This is just that one guy’s superficial criteria for what is a sport. You’re much better off seeing what kind of character traits a sport instills in its athletes, and in this area track and field is one of the best.

Why Track and Field Deserves Respect

There is a steep learning curve to every event in track and field, from obviously alien pole-vaulting to hurdling to even sprinting a good 200m. People can run, but it takes years of practice to run with efficient technique and optimal power production. A verity the kid in my gym class was no doubt unaware of. Such difficult skill acquisition should make track and field a little more recognizable to he of the hard-earned slam-dunk.

Also, to be more blunt: track and field is hard. Damn hard. In terms of physiology, track and field blows up the metabolic furnace. Sprinting and striding, leaping and jumping, throwing, and striving for raw athletic improvement seem simple to a lot of people – until they’ve tried it, day in and day out.

Track and field also requires strategy, fierce competitive drive, and familiarity with the rules and regulations that govern athletic contests. It’s not for the slow, physically or mentally. There are entire research papers published that cover the complex logistics of training.

Basis of Sport: Philosophy and History

When I joined track, I quickly became engrossed in the philosophy and history of the sport. It has no ball flying around a court, diverting your attention from what you are doing with your body. There are no techniques whose practice ingrains only one non-transferable pattern of movement.

Sport distills the aliveness and delight that Homo sapiens evolved millennia ago in response to strenuous exertion, to cope with the burden of living. It is humanity’s way of laying down a spear after an unsuccessful hunt, saying, “Screw it,” and channeling all the most ferocious emotions within us into something more productive and fun.

The most fundamental method of this is through dashing and leaping and flight: making the human body fly or making rocks and spears and Paleolithic Frisbees (otherwise known as discuses) fly. I guess some contrived game with a ball works too, but there’s a lack of magic and primal-ness about that.

All of this is why it disappoints me that the perspective of track and field pervading the minds of the young is that of the basketball jock. I see the alternate profundity, the quality that makes track and field a sport despite a lack of a ball or clear time boundaries.

There is but one recourse to counter the shortsightedness of these young folks against track and field, and I hope you know what I’m thinking by now. We’ll plan world domination through a resurgence of athletes in track and field, the most basic and true form of sport there is, and rock at it until even Mr. Sporty Pants sees how badass we are.

Photos courtesy of .

Naked Ambition: Japanese Paralympian Causes Stir With Nude Photo Shoot

Maya Nakanishi is one of Japan’s most promising track and field athletes. She just missed the podium at Beijing and is now on her way to London. She has spent years training, competing or earning money in a bid to continue the cycle.

TOKYO | Maya Nakanishi is one of Japan’s most promising track and field athletes. She just missed the podium at Beijing and is now on her way to London.
She has spent years training, competing or earning money in a bid to continue the cycle.
To get that extra edge, she left Japan — where she holds the national records in her class for the 100- and 200-meters and long jump — three years ago to chase her dream at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., with track and field great Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump gold medalist.
Those who are close to Nakanishi say her ambition, dedication and energy are on par with any Olympian they have ever known.
“She is amazing. She’s a great athlete,” Joyner said. “Her dedication is totally different.”
Ask any Japanese who she is, however, and you are almost certain to draw a blank stare.
Until you mention that calendar.
The one in which she posed naked.
A Wave of Change
Back in February, Nakanishi was flipping burgers at a McDonald’s in her hometown in southern Japan. Since her U.S. visa doesn’t allow her to hold a regular job there, she was using her three months in Japan to squirrel away as much money as she could for the year ahead.
Sports have never paid her bills.
She was a standout tennis player in high school. And against her parents’ advice, she put off college so she could pursue her ambitions in the sport, and ended up working odd jobs to support herself. When she was 21, that meant cleaning the rust off construction materials at a paint factory.
Work was backing up, and everyone was under orders to step up the pace. She was bent over rubbing a chemical cleaner on a steel beam when she heard a strange sound, like a big wave coming toward her. She felt a strong jolt, then an incredibly sharp pain. A crane operator had dumped a 5-ton load where she and another employee were standing.
Five hours later, she had to make a decision. Her right leg, below the knee, had to come off.
A New Field
Nakanishi, who is 27, never liked track and field much. She was a doubles player, and it was the teamwork that most appealed to her in sport. Track seemed almost selfish in its focus on individual achievement.
Track was different. There were people like her, races specifically for amputees. She could compete — and that was what she was driven to do. So she gave it a try.
In 2007, she entered her first major competition. She shattered the national records in the 100 and 200 for athletes with below-the-knee amputations. The next year, she was representing her country at the Beijing Paralympics. She set a national record again in her 200 semifinal.
“I couldn’t keep my focus for the final because I was so excited,” she said.
Leaving her family and friends behind, and speaking almost no English, she moved to California to work with Joyner the following year.
It was an eye-opening experience.
A Gamble
McDonald’s was a paycheck, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Not only did Nakanishi have to pay for her training and living expenses in San Diego, she was planning out a 55-meet touring schedule for the coming year. Whatever prize money she won would be sucked away by hotel bills, airplane tickets and food.
And all the training and competing was taking its toll on her prosthetic, which she uses as her plant leg when she jumps.
Ideally, she would have two spares. But at $10,000 apiece, she didn’t have that kind of money.
“I went to so many companies to talk about sponsorships,” she said. “They really want to have a relationship with Olympic athletes.”
She got no takers, but she had one other idea.
It took some convincing, but she had asked Takao Ochi, a Japanese photographer known for his work with handicapped athletes, to take photographs of her in the nude. The photos, put together in a calendar, were about to go on sale through Amazon.
It was a gamble.
The photos were mostly black and white, and not unnecessarily revealing. In one, she lies naked, her eyes closed and her head resting on her outstretched arm. Her prosthetic is accentuated in bright pink.
For a couple of months, the calendar looked like it was going to sink without a ripple.
Then a Japanese newspaper ran a story about it. Bloggers started blogging. It went viral on the Internet. Within a few weeks, all 3,000 copies had sold out. Nakanishi was flooded with supportive emails from all over the world and “likes” on her Facebook page.
She was the talk of the town.
The Aftermath
The calendar earned her about $50,000. It was such a success that another 4,000 copies are being printed.
But Nakanishi’s celebrity has for the most part worn off.
Japan has moved on.
“It’s hard to get people to care,” she said. “They don’t want to think about us.”
Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee who will be racing in the 400 meters at the Olympic, is on everyone’s mind. Pistorius, known globally as the Blade Runner, has done what everyone in this meet has dreamed of — shown he can compete with the best able-bodied runners in the world.
Questions have been raised about whether Pistorius’ prosthetics actually give him an unfair advantage, allowing him to stride faster without as much effort.
Nakanishi struggles with that argument. Maybe, she says, although she also suggests that anyone who feels that way should go ahead and cut off their leg.
“Nobody would do that,” she said. “All we want is to be included. We are athletes, we are not handicapped athletes. That’s how we want people to think about it.”

There’s No Cover-Up in Women’s Track

Did Amy Acuff go over the top with her calendar of nude female track and field athletes ? Absolutely. As a female high school track athlete myself, I find it very discouraging that women are using sex appeal instead of athletic ability to promote themselves. In the struggle for equality between male and female athletes, this is just another step in the wrong direction.

Acuff’s argument that the calendar “should represent empowerment to women athletes because it shows that we can be glamorous and still perform at a high level” is weak, at best. Why do female athletes have to be glamorous in order to succeed in athletics? Marion Jones, Mia Hamm and Jackie Joyner-Kersee have done a great job of promoting just the opposite, and are true role models for young, female athletes.

The bottom line in track and field is that unless your name is Maurice Greene, Marion Jones, Michael Johnson, or you happen to be one of the other more recognizable world-class sprinters, you’re not going to get a lot of notoriety, calendar or no calendar.

TRACY BLOOM, Santa Monica

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Dating to the ancient Olympics and up to present times, men have actively resisted women’s participation in sports. One of the critiques men have employed, which also dates to ancient times and continues today, is that women who participate in sports are ugly and/or masculinized.

Women’s sports organizations have responded to this critique by trying to emphasize the femininity of their athletes. For example, several years ago the LPGA hired fashion consultants to “soften” the image of pro women golfers.

Women athletes, such as Acuff and Katarina Witt, have internalized the critiques by wishing to portray themselves nude as sexual objects for the male gaze. It’s sad and disheartening that even strong and skilled female athletes can’t escape the “women as sex object” mentality that pervades our society. We’ve still got a long way to go.

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KATHRYN TARBELL, Fountain Valley

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Randy Harvey’s obvious bias sandbagged his token effort at objectivity in his Acuff column. He suggests that by posing nude, Acuff and her colleagues are “giving the wrong message to young girls.” What, then, is the right message? That women should be ashamed of their bodies?

He next quotes Jackie Joyner-Kersee out of context to suggest her disapproval of the calendar, conveniently neglecting to mention the beautiful nude photographs of Ms. Joyner-Kersee in the July 1996 issue of Life.

So what is your point, Mr. Harvey, particularly in your closing sentence? That those who don’t share certain outmoded concepts of morality aren’t worthy of your respect? You might want to reconsider.

ROY KING, Corona

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As an avid track and field buff, and as an avid admirer of feminine beauty, I nevertheless believe Amy Acuff is definitely on the wrong track.

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Sure, it gets attention. Sure, it must be OK because Mom helps sell the calendar and the money goes to a good cause. What twaddle!

One would think Acuff got her education at UCLA. Wait, she did.

ROY ROUDINE, Los Alamitos

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I don’t go to church, but I felt like I had after I read Brother Harvey’s column on women athletes disrobing to get their faces “out there.” Amen, and pass the calendar.

TERRY BRANNON, Los Angeles

There has been a lot of commentary regarding pro skater Leticia Bufoni appearing in ESPN’s “The Body Issue” that launched online today. So I thought now might be a great time to post an editorial on the subject.
I’m going to preface this piece by letting you know that I have been a fashion stylist working with athletes for the past 18 years for brands like Nike, Gatorade, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Honda, etc etc. I have dressed (and seen) the bodies of everyone from top swimwear models, to golfer Tiger Woods & NBA star Kobe Bryant, to pro surfer Bethany Hamilton and soccer superstar Mia Hamm.
Most likely due to my background in this industry, I am very open on what I feel is gratuitous sexual content, vs what I feel is artistic imagery that celebrates the athletic body.
I also realize that not everyone feels the same on either end of the spectrum – so I am politely asking you to have an open mind, and if you choose to leave a comment, be respectful of other peoples opinions that might be different than your own.


In 1999 USA soccer player Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey in celebration and elation after her game winning penalty kick against China at the Women’s World Cup. Many people in sports understood the gesture, as they had seen it many times before with pro male soccer players. But this was the first time the world had witnessed a female athlete doing something like this in front of a huge audience and on national television. The response was fast & furious. Good and bad. The famous image by sports photographer, Robert Beck, is embedded in our minds. For me it is an iconic image of a strong female athlete in pure elation. To others it is still deemed risque because she is in her sports bra and shorts. And the world is still talking about it. ..

Back in 2005 Dove Soap created a campaign called “Real Beauty” the ads and video’s featured women of all different sizes and shapes in basic white cotton bra’s and underwear. The goal was to get women to feel good about themselves and their bodies, no matter what their size or shape. The campaign still runs and is much discussed even today due to the women’s sizes, more than the lack of clothing – which I find interesting.
Had the models all been size 0-2 would have the response from both men and women been different? Something to think about.

In 2009 ESPN launched a special edition of the magazine called “The Body Issue”. The issue was created in direct response to Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit” edition, which at the time featured only women in miniscule bikinis (or less) on beautiful beaches. ESPN decided to focus on both male and female, Olympic & pro athletes, and to shoot with well known and respected fashion photographers, to create images that celebrated the unique sizes and shapes that various athletes have.
At that time there were six alternative covers released, featuring both male and female pro athletes – Serena William for tennis, Adrian Peterson for the NFL, Dwight Howard from the NBA, Gina Carano for MMA, Sarah Reinertsen for Triathlon & Carl Edwards for NASCAR. It was less about “sex” and more about an amazing athletic body, the public seemed to say with their comments to ESPN.
Interesting enough, Serena Williams, who is not a size 2 nor tiny in stature like Gina Carano, but is majorly powerful and strong, was the highest selling cover that year.

In 2013 I worked on a big campaign featuring (one of ESPN’s 2015 Body Issue athletes) pro baseball player Bryce Harper. It was a beautiful shoot for Under Armour that was done in Las Vegas, high up in a penthouse suite, & resulted in this stunning image of Bryce. I posted this ad on my various social media outlets when it ran, and had nothing but positive response to the shots from both males and females.
What if this had been a female athlete? How would the response have differed?

In 2014 skateboarder Natalie Krishna Das thought up and executed a conceptual photo shoot where girls were shredding pools and a gorgeous man was scantily clad poolside holding grapes as they rode by. People loved it. Women “oohed and awed” over the guy, and both men and women in the skateboard industry thought it was very “tongue in cheek” and loved the photos. Pure role reversal but without the discord.
For many years, and I mean many years, there have been ads in action sports magazines glorifying sex, and portraying women as objects rather than athletes. Which I am not going to publish pics of here, as I don’t see any reason to give those companies any free press.
The funny thing is I don’t see many people writing letters to the editors or companies, or taking away skate or surf magazines from their kids and saying publicly it’s wrong. Which I find very interesting.

Today’s photo of Leticia brought up a lot of discussion on this subject. I have heard everything from “I don’t want my kids seeing this on the internet” and “what kind of role model is she?” to outright support, understanding, and congratulations to this amazing woman who is at the top of her sport.
I think it would have been very interesting (and I wish I would have) had I run this photo of USA track & field hammer thrower, Amanda Bingson, who talks about her weight and why she’s built for her sport and proud of her body.
Would the comments have been the same? Is it perhaps more about Leticia being the “ideal” size/weight so her photo is more “sexual” to some people?
Here are two statements made by athletes featured in the Body Issue. Can you tell which one was a quote from a male athlete and which was from a female athlete?
“I’m proud of my body, I’m proud of my sport, I’m proud of being a professional athlete. Being naked is just another aspect of that.”
“I worked hard this off season to get my body where I needed to get it because finally, I wasn’t hurt”
Does it matter? Not really, both are athletes at the peak of their sport and working like hell to be in the best shape possible. Both also have a great self body image and are proud of how their bodies look – which is what I hope every girl out there feels as well.

Yet when these statements were placed under each athletes photos can you guess who got more flack? Yep, USA World Cup Soccer player Ali Krieger whose quote is the first one.
Why is it OK for our male counterparts to be seen as Adonis’s and yet when our female athletes train hard, eat right, win championships & do photo shoots with the same photographers, they risk being labeled sexual beings, and not good role models? Isn’t that a double standard?
In fact, I wonder how many parents are at home tonight forbidding their sons from looking at Bryce Harper, and all the other guys in the 2015 ESPN Body Issue? Probably not many (if any), vs how many parents are agonizing about their daughters seeing the image from The Body Issue of Leticia that we posted today on our instagram feed this morning….
Something to think about – this crazy double standard we are creating for our girls.
Isn’t it also up to us (or you as a parent if your child is under a certain age) to decide who is a female role model you’d like to have? You can simply choose not to have that person be your role model, but I don’t think vilifying these women is the answer.
In my opinion, if you are going to put Leticia or any of these other female athletes on a cross, you had better race to turn off the TV, stop going to movies, and take away your kids internet and cell phones because there are a lot more images out there that are really offensive and degrading to women that we need to be worrying about.

6 Reasons ‘ESPN’ Body Issue Cover Girl Amanda Bingson Is The Body Positive Champ The Sporting World Needs

By now, you’ve probably heard about Amanda Bingson, the incredible track and field guru who is one of the cover stars of ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue, and also happens to be plus size. This Body Issue of ESPN Magazine is released annually and features athletes across all major sports, often in the nude and looking incredibly beautiful. Seriously, the photos are done in very artistic taste.

Last year, in fact, baseball player Prince Fielder also made headlines, and despite being a naked plus size man (not something we see often in media, due to people’s, you know, fear of any kind of fat), he was rightly celebrated in a body positive way. That being said, many readers I spoke to about the issue believed that that a woman with a visible gut would never be featured naked in ESPN Magazine. And heck, I believed it too. I was happily was proven wrong yesterday, though, as ESPN stepped up to the plate with Amanda Bingson’s incredibly beautiful cover.

I know that athletes can come in all shapes and sizes and that there isn’t one particular body type that represents athleticism, but for a long time I wasn’t sure that the rest of the world realized this very simple fact. Bingson has a big and strong body that serves her so well in her hammer throwing. At 210 pounds, she was able to brake the female American record for hammer throwing in 2013. She’ll also be competing at the 2016 Olympics in hopes of earning a gold medal.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of Bingson and love that ESPN is highlighting both her beauty and athletic accomplishments. I know she is doing so much for women and female athletes, in particular. Thus, I think of her as a body positive icon — and here are my six main reasons why.

1. She Proves Strength Comes In Large Sizes

We often think of strong athletes as being thin and muscular, but Bingson is strong and with a larger frame. With her broad shoulders and tough core, she’s not someone I would mess with! In her interview with ESPN Mag, she describes herself as being “dense” and not someone who is a total muscle-head. “I’m just dense. I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.”

2. She Embodies Health At Every Size

Health At Every Size is a movement and philosophy that operates under the notion that healthy bodies can and do come in all different sizes. Bingson is clearly healthy and strong (do you think anyone can just throw an 8 to 10 pound hammer 248 feet?) and I love that she proves you can be powerful and fit at a larger size.

3. She Loves Her Body

Rachel Murray/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In her interview, Bingson also spoke about body image and gave an amazing quote about how much she loves her own body. “I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body,” she said. So many people would probably expect her to wish she was thinner or had bulging muscles, but she adores herself exactly the way she is.

4. She’s Overcome Fat Shame

Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

This woman hasn’t had it easy and has had to overcome a lot of fat shame in her life. She told ESPN about the bullying she faced in middle school, when — up until that point — the idea that she was “too fat” hadn’t even crossed her mind. “I never knew that I was the fat kid in school until a boy told me that I was too fat. I thought, ‘What does that mean?’ I had always been so athletic and into sports; I didn’t think I was that fat,” she said.

“But everybody wants to fit that skinny ideal picture that we see on billboards all the time, and people would always remind me that that wasn’t me.” Definitely heartbreaking to hear, but it’s incredible that despite the fat shaming she faced, she was able to go on to become one of the world’s greatest athletes.

5. She’s Been Inspired By Body Positive Women

Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Bingson discussed how her move from Las Vegas to Texas helped her gain more confidence in her body. “In Vegas, I was bombarded with all of these ‘double zeros’ and Abercrombie models… And when I moved to Texas, everyone here is just so open about their bodies,” she said.

She went on to discuss how she constantly sees larger women in the Lonestar state looking confident in their bikinis, which has inspired her. “Now I just think, ‘I’m just going to throw far because I’m confident with myself and I don’t have to worry about what I look like anymore.'” There’s nothing that makes me happier than women inspiring other women to love themselves.

6. She Can Do Things Many Thin People Can’t

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Bingson also told ESPN that people should use their bodies physically no matter what size they are, and that she even thinks she has an edge over some thin people in athletics. “There are definitely things that I can do that skinnier people can’t do. But then there are things that skinnier people do that I’ll never be able to do.” There’s no shaming in Bingson’s tone, nor self deprecation. Rather, the lesson here is to make sports work for you and find out what your body is capable of.

Images: Getty Images; Amanda Bingson/Twitter

Peter Hapak for ESPN the Magazine

Amanda Bingson taught the world a thing or two about confidence when she posed nude on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s body issue. The hammer thrower, 25, is a member of USA Track and Field, and gave her sport a big boost by throwing hammers in the buff for photographer Peter Hapak. But she was already a star, having broken the U.S. record in 2013 and making the Olympic team.

Bingson, who is 5-foot-6 “on a good day,” told ESPN she posed nude to prove that athletes don’t need to fit a certain physical mold. And that’s a mantra she lives by: During her photo shoot, she says she asked the magazine to round up when reporting her weight. That day, she was about 207, but she had them round up to 210.

She’s busy training for the 2015 world championships in Beijing and learning how to deal with a whole lot of attention for the first time. The Las Vegas native, who now lives in Texas, talked to Cosmopolitan.com about the incredible reaction to her photo shoot.

Getty Images

In the ESPN article, you talked about being bullied for your weight. How did people react to you growing up?
I was always the big girl on campus. My heritage is Filipino and German, and so we naturally have a bigger frame, so I’d always been bigger. I never realized I was bigger than anybody because back when I was growing up, we didn’t have social media like we have now. But once I got into middle school, I had asked a boy if he wanted to go to the movies with me and a whole bunch of my friends. He was like, “No, you guys are too fat, I would never be seen with you.”

Once I got into physical activities, I was the girl everyone was afraid of. People were like, “Oh, shit, she’s big, she’s gonna run me over.” I was like, “Yeah, get out of my way, I’m better than you!” People are scared of big things, but I used it, because I think my parents raised me right. All the friends I surround myself with, they like you for who you are rather than what you look like.

What was it like to pose nude while hammer throwing?
Growing up in Las Vegas, bodies were everywhere and nakedness was thrown in our faces all the time. So I’d always been relatively confident about my body, and nakedness never really fazed me. One of my buddies, he’s thrown naked before, just for fun, and I wondered how that would feel. It’s a lot harder because there are a lot of moving parts during the throw. I’m not exactly the smallest girl, so I had boobs going every which way, and it was hard trying to get a shot to cover everything up.

They had asked if I wanted to look at the pictures while we were doing the shoot. I told them I’d rather not, because I don’t want to look at the pictures and think, Oh no, my body doesn’t look good this way, I have this roll going this way, you can see my cellulite here. I didn’t want to worry about it. I just wanted to do it. It turned out way better than I could have ever imagined.

Courtesy Amanda Bingson

You mentioned asking a boy out in middle school. Are you in a relationship now?
No, I haven’t had a date in seven years. Growing up, I’ve always been one of the guys. But I don’t want to be one of the guys, I want to be a girl. When my guy friends see me out and about and in a dress, they’re like, “Whoa, you’re a girl!” I’m like, “Crazy thing, huh?” But that’s the big thing on Twitter though. People are like, “Are you married? I’m ready to put a ring on it!”

Do you have any advice for girls who need a self-esteem boost?
There are so many opportunities for girls who aren’t a size 2, or even a size 10. There are so many other sports out there than volleyball, soccer, and basketball, all the sports we see on ESPN. Women’s rugby is insane, and those girls are huge. They’re just monsters, so intense, so fit, and so athletic. Go look at those girls, and go get into other activities. If you look for it, there are definitely things that you can do.

You just have to find something you’re good at and be successful at it. I have one friend who’s not athletic, but she’s the most organized person I’ve ever met in my life. Another friend refurbishes furniture, she’ll buy secondhand stuff, and revamp it and it’ll be beautiful. That’s something to be proud of, and it has nothing to do with your image and your body. That’s something you can be confident about, and that makes a world of difference.

View this post on Instagram

When I was younger, my mom got me into all types of sports. No one believed I was a gymnast until this happened after I won the 2013 National Championships. #ThankYouMom #PressPlay #USAGymnastics #USATF #NYAC #FitFam #igfit #CurvyGirl #CurvyFit #unlv

A post shared by Amanda Bingson (@abingson) on Jul 8, 2015 at 6:07pm PDT

Why did you decide to start doing track and field?
I was in band in high school, and one of my best friends, who was in the drumline with me, also did track and field. I was looking for something to do, because I was always kind of active. So I was looking at one of their practices, and I was like, “No, I don’t want to be a thrower,” because there are all these stereotypes about throwers, and how they’re fat and lazy and just trying to get out of P.E. But I saw a young gentleman there, his name was Ben Jacobs, and he took his shirt off. I was just like, “Yeah, I think I can stay around for a little while.” He now plays in the NFL, so I picked him right.

So this is your full-time job now?
I am one of the few, few lucky hammer throwers where this actually is my full-time job. A lot of people assume that once you become a professional athlete, that’s all it is, it’s your job, and you can live off that. The reality is that’s not really true. As soon as I made the team in 2012, I wasn’t making any money, so I actually had to work at Panda Express for a full year. As soon as I made the team, I came back and started making some orange chicken, because I had bills to pay. Now I am fortunate enough that I can make it into an actual living.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Follow Megan on Twitter.

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