The naked truth about sports appears in July issue of Life

June 16, 1996|By Bo Emerson | Bo Emerson,COX NEWS SERVICE

The original Olympians competed nude.

For old time's sake -- and for the benefit of Life magazine -- a handful of current Olympians have stripped off their spandex.

The magazine's July issue carries a dramatic photo essay of 17 members of the U.S. Olympic team, most of them photographed in the nude.

Titled "Naked Power, Amazing Grace: A photographic celebration of the Olympic body," the issue includes photos of track athletes Carl Lewis, Gwen Torrence, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Johnson and Gail Devers, synchronized swimmers Nathalie Schneyder and Margot Thien and fencer Sharon Monplaisir.

The photos, all but two in black and white, were taken by veteran shooter Joe McNally, Life's only staff photographer.

"We did photograph them nude and posed in a way that speaks to the sport and also hides the body strategically so that we could publish the pictures," McNally said.

The photographs concentrate on different parts of the bodies -- weightlifter Mark Henry's huge hand, Devers' highly muscled leg.

"We photographed the bottoms of (marathon runner) Linda Somer's feet, right when she qualified; she'd just run 26.2 miles," he said. "You can tell these feet have run a lot of miles."

True. But feet don't sell magazines. Other images certain to grab more attention, and perhaps raise a few eyebrows, include the two-page color picture of Schneyder and Thien floating upside-down and naked, and a full-body side view of Lewis mid-stride.

Schneyder said she isn't worried about unwanted attention. "I really want to see some reaction, I want to see some telephone calls," she said, "because the more calls we get, the better it is for our sport."

Platform diver Mary Ellen Clark, photographed in a tucked position, spoke about the photos in April, saying, "It was professionally done, tasteful. I wouldn't take my clothes off for just anybody."

In an accompanying essay called "The Soul of These Beautiful Machines," Lisa Grunwald writes about the exotic beauty of the Olympic body.

For the first time in Life's history, the magazine will be be available on the newsstand with four different covers. Home delivery customers will receive a magazine with the same cover, however, featuring a portrait of Torrence from the waist up, fists clenched, head thrown back.

Some newsstand customers will see a cover adorned by members of the U.S. water polo team, holding strategically placed balls. "People can look at something pruriently or they can look at it as something beautiful and to be admired," said Bruce Wigo, executive director of U.S. Water Polo, who predicted the photographs will produce positive results for the sport.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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