Rio-Bound Olympians Share Why They Love Their Bodies
"I love my shape because it makes me feel really powerful and like I can accomplish anything. I'm proud of my really long legs. Growing up they always seemed so awkward, but now they're what's gotten me here."
—Allyson Felix, Olympic 200-meter gold medalist, Chobani athlete
"I love my legs, quads, and glutes the most because they allow me to lunge dynamically forward. I remember those awkward middle school years when I would look at other girls and think, I wish my legs were skinny like hers. If I could, I would go back and tell my younger self to really embrace it because athleticism is beautiful."
—Mariel Zagunis, two-time Olympic gold medalist and world fencing champion
"I love my shape because it gives me confidence and strength and reminds me of the beauty that our differences carry. Over the years, my body has adapted to multiple adversities, and with each turn in the road I've learned to love my body because it's the very vehicle that propels me to chase after my dreams and be the best athlete I can be." (These Women Show Why the #LoveMyShape Movement Is So Freakin' Empowering)
— Mallory Weggemann, Paralympic 50-meter freestyle gold medalist, Hershey's athlete
"I love my abs because they help keep me aligned for everything—my punch, set off, and landing. We're always getting told to go do more abs. I'm like, I have a 6-pack, how many more do you want me to grow? But I'm proud of my entire body because it does what I need it to do, and it's gotten me where I need to be. I know I was built with this body shape for a reason, and I put it to good use."
—Simone Biles, three-time world all-around gymnastics champion, Kellogg's athlete
"I love my shape because I work so hard for it every single day. It's very strong and athletic and helps me to be able to tumble. Me and Simone love our butts because they give us a lot of power."
—Aly Raisman, Olympic team and floor exercise gold medalist
"I love my shape because it's strong and healthy and enables me to do what I love for a living. My legs make me feel strong and beautiful. I feel like they're pretty powerful especially for how tall I am, and they don't look too shabby in a skirt either! But my brain is my favorite body part by far. Mindset, perspective, mentality, work ethic, those all come from the brain. Without those, you can be an amazing athlete, but be held back from reaching your potential, so it's the most important muscle to exercise."
—April Ross, Olympics beach volleyball silver medalist, Ralph Lauren athlete
"I love my shape because it allows me to do what I need to do out on the floor and feel good outside of gymnastics. The body part I love the most is my legs! I'm like, yeah, I look good in these jeans! I remember being at the BET awards, and I was getting back into my training after taking time off, so I was gaining a lot of muscle. I kept keeping my arms behind me because I didn't want to look muscular in this beautiful dress, but my mom told me to just embrace it. I remember everyone being so positive, like, 'Oh my gosh, her muscles!'"
—Gabby Douglas, Olympic team and individual gold medalist
"My body is precious to me because it has taken me on an incredible journey. As an athlete, I've experienced the joys of traveling the world, personal achievement, and contributing to a team and all of this was accomplished by a body that took a serious beating. I've had to ask a lot of my legs and my heart to carry me this far and my body has exceeded anyone's expectations, including my own! My shape is beautiful because it quietly displays my efforts of exercise, nutrition, and self-care. Embrace your body—you only get one and it's uniquely yours."
—Jenny Simpson, two-time 1500-meter Olympian, 9-time USA National Champion, New Balance athlete
"I love my arms—when people look at me they don't think my arms are necessarily ripped, but I've worked really hard with my upper body doing a lot of push-ups, TRX, and ropes and have gotten them really strong. Some women maybe wouldn't want muscles in their arms, but I think it's awesome and embrace it."
—Carli Lloyd, two-time Olympic gold medalist, KIND athlete
"You see women all over magazines and Instagram, and they all have these flat tummies and you're like, 'Wow that's great'! I don't think I'm exactly flat—I have a big build, and I love it. It shows that I'm strong and that I'm able to wake up and eat healthy. But if I want to have a cookie, I'll have a cookie, and it's OK. But I do love the way I look. I love my build, and I love that I'm strong. It's important to love yourself because no one can really do that for you." (Here, more First-Time #TeamUSA Olympians to Look Out for In Rio.)
—Laurie Hernandez, 2016 Olympics women's gymnastics team member
"Getting back into competitive shape after having my baby wasn't easy, and I'm happy with the progress I've made. My post-baby body makes me feel both beautiful and strong. Sometimes I'm out running with my dog and my son in the jogging stroller, and I get double and triple takes as I run by with my prosthetic leg. Once someone yelled out the window that I was a 'badass mom,' and it stuck with me. The biggest compliment is when someone says I look like an athlete and that I look strong. To me, strong is beautiful."
"I love my shape because it's a true reflection of all of the hard work I've put in. My broad shoulders show that I've swum thousands of miles, and my strong legs show how many miles I have run and how many squats I have done for cross training. My body wins me Olympic medals—how could I not love it?"
—Elizabeth Beisel, Olympics 400-meter individual medley silver medalist
"I love my shoulders! They have swam thousands and thousands of miles and look they way they do because they have a purpose."
—Haley Anderson, 10K open water silver medalist, Ralph Lauren athlete
"I love my shape because it's me; it's who I am. I've achieved dreams and continue to chase new ones with the body I was given. As kids, you see photos of these "ideal" thin women and believe that's who you need to be in order to accomplish your athletic goals. But that's one thing I love about water polo—you can be any shape or size at the most elite level. I'm lucky to be a part of a team that's made up of women who are all confident, talented, and beautiful with completely different body types. It's important to remember that we are training to be fit, bad ass women, and that's who I aspire to be."
—Maggie Steffens, Olympic water polo gold medalist
"I love my shape because it reminds me of how hard I work every day. The strongest part of my body is my legs because I use them to perform my dives and to take my dogs on afternoon runs. I feel the strongest when I'm at a diving completion. I put in so much work and preparation to get ready for a diving meet. Once the completion starts, I know without a doubt that I've done everything I possibly could do to be able to perform the best I can. There's no better feeling than having that kind of confidence in yourself."
—Amy Cozad, Eight-time national champion platform diver
"When I was in middle school and even high school, I wasn't comfortable with my body. I look back and it makes me sad, but I've grown into my body and really embrace it. I don't have the typical girl body, I'm kind of built like a boy. I don't have an hourglass figure but that's OK because I can play soccer and run for 90 minutes and kick ass on the soccer field, so it's all good. I love how I look. My favorite body part is my butt because that's where we get all our power from and that's what keeps me going up and down the field and drives my explosiveness. I kind of have a bubble butt, but it helps me do what I need to do!" (Find out O'Hara's pre-competition good luck charm.)
—Kelley O'Hara, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Coppertone athlete
"I love my shape because I am strong, and powerful, and beautiful. I'm a super heavy weight for women's wrestling and I get to walk around knowing I love myself naked and clothed. It's a fantastic time to love your shape. I would love to say I've played a part in this—I think it's purely genetics—but I think I have a really great ass and legs. I love strutting my stuff in my jeans and little skirts."
—Adeline Gray, three-time world champion in women's freestyle wrestling
"In my sport, we have a lot of fast movements and we lunge a lot, so a lot of women sabers are known for having larger legs. As a kid, having bigger legs was always something I struggled with—even just with finding clothes that fit. But I love my legs as an adult. I embrace my shape and my body. I love the strength in my legs and I know that the stronger I can make them the more efficient I'll be as an athlete." (Related: Ibtihaj Muhammad on the Future of Muslim Women In Sports.)
—Ibtihaj Muhammad, five-time Senior World saber team medalist, VISA athlete
"I love my shape because it makes what I do easy. My mom always says, 'You were built to do this'. The proportions, the way my body is shaped, even down to the size of my feet. I always used to be super self-conscious about my feet because they're huge compared to my skinny little ankles, but we'll joke now that it means I'm able to get a little more distance! What I have is definitely what I'm supposed to have and it helps me be the best I can be."
—Ajee Wilson, no.1-ranked 800m runner, Kellogg's athlete
"I love my muscles because I fight with them. It's like a gun show when I'm boxing, I got the left gun right here and the right gun right here! Sometimes people mistake me for a guy when they take a quick look at me from behind because of my super strong back and arms, and I can't wear certain dresses or crop tops because my muscles are popping out, but I embrace everything! I don't have any breasts, but I have a little 6-pack going on, then boom—the butt! I love that I have a slim waist with a big butt. It gets a lot of attention that I wish it didn't, but at the same time, this is how I'm built. Every woman in my family has a big butt."
—Claressa Shields, Olympic boxing gold medalist, Up2Us Sports
"I love my shape because people can always tell I'm an athlete—whether or not they actually know who I am—just by looking at my legs and arms. A lot of times people make fun of my calves—I have some of the biggest calves out of anyone on the team, so people always ask how we can wear pants! But it's the one body part I am proud of because it's something I was naturally gifted with; my mom and dad both have really muscular calves too. You need to embrace what you're given."
—Alex Morgan, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Chobani athlete
"Growing up in Miami—where everything is about short skirts and high heels—it was difficult for me after my car accident. When I started CrossFit, I'd break out in heat rashes because I'd try to hide the fact that I was missing a leg by wearing pants. But CrossFit became a game changer for me because I got so tired of the rashes that I just started wearing shorts and embracing that I'm a powerhouse. Like, look what I'm doing with one leg. I think that I've grown to love my stump now. It's what I embrace most about me. It's my best feature. My stump. Because life threw me a lemon, and I made lemonade."
—Natalie Bieule, 2015 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships gold medalist (discus), Kellogg's athlete
"I love my shape because I've come to think that strong is beautiful. I love my soccer legs. A lot of soccer players grow up thinking, 'ugh, my thighs!.' But it becomes a part of you. I would not be able to play the way I play without them. That's the beauty of growing and learning about your body and being able to love it. Being a woman, I love being a girly girl and doing all of those fun things, but at the same time I love my fierce side."
—Julie Johnston, Olympic soccer gold medalist, Kellogg's athlete
"I'm definitely a bigger girl. I wouldn't say I'm your typical, average female—I'm 165 pounds, I have 14 percent body fat. Growing up I was never told, 'it's good to be fit, it's good to be strong and big and healthy.' I love my body because it's so useful. I don't have show muscles, I have go muscles. Every single muscle in my body has a purpose and every day when I'm my training, I'm not training to look good, I'm training to fight good. My body is my tool, it's my weapon, so I'm proud of it."
—Kayla Harrison, judo gold medalist
"Soccer players have a particular shape. It's very difficult to find clothing—especially pants—to fit our bodies! We have big quads and thighs, and I have a small waist, so the sizes don't exactly correlate. But we do have great legs. They're strong, and we need them to play at the highest level, so I love them."
—Morgan Brian, FIFA Women's World Cup champion, Chobani athlete
"TaeKwonDo has a major emphasis on kicking so women that are really successful in this sport need to have strong legs. So I love my legs, even though I go into stores and I'm like, 'these jeans don't fit how they're supposed to!' I'm truly grateful for this talent God has given me through my body. I am who I am, I'm proud of it, and I think we all need to have more self-confidence. The media portrays beauty as being skinny, but really, the more confident you are the more beautiful you are."
—Paige McPherson, Olympic TaeKwonDo bronze medalist
"I love my back and my shoulders because I work so hard to have those muscles. I'm missing the lower half of my legs, so I need to really embrace that. I can't control the fact that I don't have my legs, but I love that I found swimming because I don't feel disabled."
—Jessica Long, 12-time Paralympic swimming gold medalist
"I love my legs because they make me powerful and they make me feel strong. They've held up ever since I was young and have helped me get where I am today and be this successful. I always get made fun of by my teammates for my huge calves, but I'm like, 'they make me strong and fast!'"
—Ali Krieger, FIFA Women's World Cup champion, ZICO athlete