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Athletes Bare All for ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue

Elena Hight

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As one of professional snowboarding’s shining stars, at just 23 years old Elena Hight is already a two-time Olympian in snowboard halfpipe. But the Kauai, Hawaii native is known to have big success since a very early age. She became the first female to land a demanding 900-degree aerial spin in competition when she was only 13.

“Fear still gets the better of me sometimes. But when you're just enjoying yourself and living in the moment, you're not thinking about what could go wrong. Fear can be a good motivator, but for me, it's realizing your own potential and really just going for it and jumping into the fire,” Hight told ESPN.

Photo credit: Martin Schoeller for ESPN The Magazine

Colin Kaepernick

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With strength, stamina, and huge sex appeal, Colin Kaepernick was an easy choice to feature on one of the issue’s eight different covers this year. As the NFL’s most sudden rising star during the 2012 San Francisco 49ers season, the 6' 4", 230-pound QB went from a bench warmer to a Super Bowl centerpiece in months. It’s hard not to notice his rifle-for-an-arm, muscular rushing legs, and enviable athleticism on the field—not to mention how fit he looks naked.

When asked about the appeal of posing in the buff, he told ESPN, “Just breaking the standard, breaking the mold. Whether it’s having tattoos, whether it’s playing a different style of offense, I want people to look at me and say, ‘he's successful and he’s doing it a different way.’"

Photo credit: Richard Phibbs for ESPN The Magazine

Marlen Esparza

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At 5' 2" and 112 pounds, Marlen Esparza may be little, but she's certainly fierce. In 2012 the 23-year-old athlete became the first American woman to qualify for the Olympic Games in boxing, to which she’s said, “it’s a big step—not really just for boxing but for women in general.”

Outside of the Olympics, the pretty powerhouse won the bronze medal in the 2006 World Championship and the gold in the 2008 Pan American Games.

To keep her body in such great shape, she uses a Hypoxi machine. “It simulates high altitude and makes your red blood cells reproduce more quickly. You put it on as a mask and work out with it,” Esparza told ESPN. “I do sprints or hit a bag, six minutes on, four minutes off, for an hour.”

And when she doesn’t feel like she can train any further? “If I stop, I’m going to feel worse, not better. The only thing worse than to keep going when you’re tired is the disappointment if you stop. For me, disappointment in myself is 10 times worse than any physical pain.”

Photo credit: Peter Hapak for ESPN The Magazine

Kenneth Faried

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Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried is nicknamed the “Manimal” for a reason: He's ferocious, aggressive, and deadly from beyond the arc. The hunky baller-turned-model not only heats up the cover, but he’s also the fourth NBA player to grace the issue, joining past cover boys Dwight Howard (2009), Amar’e Stoudemire (2010), Blake Griffin (2011), and Tyson Chandler (2012). Obviously the 6' 8", 230-pound athlete is comfortable in his own skin, but would you believe he actually sees room for improvement?

“I want my thighs to be a little thicker so I can move people instead of just having to jump over them all the time,” he revealed to ESPN.

RELATED: 6 Incredible Pics from Last Year's Body Issue

Photo credit: Carlos Serrao for ESPN The Magazine

Sydney Leroux

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Boston Breaker’s forward Sydney Leroux was better known for her face than her body before posing for one of the eight special covers for the issue.

When asked why she decided to pose nude, Leroux told ESPN, “I think a lot of females struggle with the way they look, and I wanted to show that everyone's body is different. I think it's a big deal to be an athlete and feel confident in your body and show it off. I'm not going to say I've never struggled with how I look, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with who I am.”

She’s proud of what her sport has done to her body as well. “I like that I have scars. I have scars all over my legs. I don't ever try to hide them; they remind me of how hard I play. I like that I look tough. It's something to celebrate, and it's my job.”

For more photos and inspiring interviews with the athletes featured in ESPN The Magazine's The Body Issue, check out ESPN.com or pick up a copy when it hits newsstands July 12.

Photo credit: Peter Hapak for ESPN The Magazine