Though there are a few notable exceptions — Anna Pornikova, Playboy covergirl/ tennis star Ashley Harkleroad among them — most Olympic caliber women are delightfully unsexualized. Which is not to say that they're not sexy, but that the press about them is about their athletic achievements as opposed to their finely toned backsides. Like the fancy feats of Australian swimmer Libby Trickett, pictured here, who recently set the world record in the 100-meter freestyle. And as Laura Capitano of the Florida Times-Union points out, this is a great thing, though it's not necessarily motivated by a feminist spirit. As with most marketing, it's motivated by the audience.
"A University of Minnesota research team found that pin-up images of a female athlete don't do much to advance women's sports. The core fan base, women ages 18 to 55 and fathers with daughters, were all discouraged by such images in the study," Capitano writes. "The younger, male subjects who enjoyed the images did not share the same level of interest for the associated sport. In short, sex may sell some magazines, but it doesn't help bring in the fans."
Capitano also notes that women who are in sports watched primarily by males, like Danica Patrick, are often hyper-sexualized. "I've never seen a male race car driver out of his goofy logo-laden uniform, yet I bet I can pick Danica Patrick's Indy booty out of a lineup," Capitano says. And anyway, hotness is pretty pedestrian when compared with Olympian athletic prowess. Capitano says it best herself: "Hot chicks are a dime a dozen with all the saline and liposuction around these days. But, an Olympic medalist? That's something for the ages."
No Medals For Best In Buff, Ladies [Florida Times-Union]
Read more coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games.