Sports tend to be dominated by men, and sometimes women’s sports are a bit harder to sell. But strong female athletes are fascinating role models, and many sports fans want to know everything about them - where they train, why they play, and even what's going on in their personal lives. Maybe it's their top-notch physique; their astounding skills and agility, their toughness mixed with beauty...who knows? But what we do know is that some of these female athletes aren't afraid of showing a little skin. When the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated comes out every year, both men and women flock to the magazine to get a peek at their favorite lady athlete in little clothing.
For the female athlete whp wants to go a little more risqué and shed not just a little, but all of their clothing, they may play with the idea of becoming a playmate. Whether it's for a boost of confidence and empowerment, or a boost in publicity, there have been many female athletes who have made an appearance in the naughty magazine. Many of these women will make their appearances post-Olympics or after their competitive careers are over - likely, to avoid any controversy. Their appearances in the magazine have still, however, stirred up some debate as to whether these athletes should be considered as role models.
Whether it is implied nudity, a risqué outfit, showing off a little booty or going full frontal, the following are the ten top female athletes who have posed for Playboy. After seeing them sweat it out in the competitive venue, these athletes have portrayed a different side for all the world to see. The women listed here have not only daunting natural beauty, but they chose to show off their bodies after toughing it out in their respective sports, which makes them all the more attractive.
10 LaTasha Marzolla
Many Playboy fans might believe LaTasha Marzolla is primarily a Playboy model. That may be true, but she has also proven recently that she is more than a capable kick boxer and MMA fighter. When it comes to Playboy, she has graced a full seven covers of the magazine. While, unlike most on our list, she is a model first and an athlete second athlete, Marzolla's a perfect example for other models who want to break away from the traditional image.
9 Maria Butyrskaya – 1998
When it comes to a successful figure skating career, Maria Butyrskaya is living proof that hard work pays off. In the 1998 Olympic games, Maria placed fourth, and not too long after the conclusion, she accepted an offer to pose nude for Playboy. Maria would return to the 2002 Winter Games to place sixth. The figure skater hails from Russia and along with the Olympics, she also won the 1999 World Championship, and the Russian National Figure Skating Championship six times. Needless to say, she is a tenacious athlete who also isn’t afraid to shed some clothes and show off her softer side.
8 Mia St. John - 1999
None of us would want to take on Mia St. John in a fight. Not only is she skilled in boxing but she's also well trained in tae kwon do. Mia first became known to the world as a boxer, making her professional debut in 1997 on Valentine’s Day. She knocked out her opponent in the first 54 seconds of the match. When she accepted the offer to pose for Playboy, she made sure that there was a boxing theme and maintained it for the entire 11 page spread. The reason behind the decision? She wanted to remind everyone that she was an athlete first.
7 Pasha Grishuk – 1999
Pasha Oksana Grishuk is a two-time Olympic gold medal athlete for Russia in the 1994 and 1998 games. She's no stranger to winning as she's also a four-time World champion, and a three-time European champion alongside her partner Evgeni Platov. Just a year after her gold medal win, she posed nude for Playboy for the 1999 Russian issue. Today, you will find her living in Anaheim, California coaching other future Olympic hopefuls.
6 Joanie Laurer – 2000 and 2002
Joanie Laurer is known in the pro-wrestling world as Chyna and was declared as the “Ninth Wonder of the World” by the WWF. She's a force to be reckoned with and doesn’t just play with the girls in wrestling; Chyna will take on the men as well. Considering her build, she is more than capable of taking on the testosterone-filled sport. She has shown off her tough feminine side for Playboy twice, in 2000 and 2002. Along with being a professional wrestler, Chyna has recently admitted to dabbling as an adult film actress.
5 Gabrielle Reece – 2001
Gabrielle Reece has graced the cover of numerous magazines since she made major success as a beach volleyball player. In 1989, she was named by Elle Magazine as one of the top five most beautiful women in the world. Given that the nature of the sport dictates that you wear less clothing to allow for more movement, she had to stay in tip-top shape, which not only helped her playing, but also gave her an amazing body to show off. When she accepted the offer to pose nude in Playboy in 2001, she wanted to show how women can still maintain beauty and femininity while being athletic.
4 Kiana Tom – 2002
Kiana Tom is one of the world’s most notable fitness personalities as well as an athlete. With several workout series under her belt, her body has been a model of inspiration for many women. When she made the decision to pose for Playboy in 2002, it wasn't something she took lightly - she wanted to wait until her body was in perfect condition. While she doesn’t have a specialty in one specific sport, she trains her body hard enough that she is an athletic inspiration.
3 Amy Acuff – 2004
Amy Lyn Acuff is a track and field athlete who has competed for the United States in five Olympic games starting in 1996 and has been a part of each one, including 2012, with her specialty being the high jump. In 2004, Acuff was among several athletes who posed nude for Playboy. This specific 2004 in question is heavily noted for its high inclusion of female Olympians shortly after the Games concluded that same year with Acuff gaining fourth place. This special edition of Playboy, called “Women of the Olympics” included as 12-page nude photo spread of several other athletes. Acuff even had the honor of gracing the cover of this issue.
2 Amanda Beard – 2007
Swimmer Amanda Beard made headlines at the young age of 14 when she won the Olympic gold medal. She also broke two world records for the 200-meter backstroke, as well as becoming the second youngest swimmer to get the gold. Beard is no stranger to the Olympics as she has competed in four of them (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and has won seven medals in total. In 2007, Beard stirred up some controversy by posing nude in Playboy in an effort to change the cliché view of women by showing what it means to be a powerful woman and athlete. But believe it or not, Playboy wasn't the only time she posed naked, as Beard stripped again for PETA's anti-fur ads.
1 Maria Kanellis – 2008
Maria Kanellis is a professional wrestler with the WWE simply known as “Maria”. She got entered the public eye in 2004 during her appearance on reality shows such as Outback Jack and the Raw Diva Search. She got hired by WWE at first as a backstage interviewer later that year, but in 2005, she moved on to becoming a full time professional wrestler. Of course, there’s a strong debate that this sort of wrestling is fake, but no one can deny that physical requirements of the WWE are similar to that of an athlete. In 2008, she appeared on the cover of Playboy.