In the days of the original Greek Olympics, the victors would often be celebrated in marble statues still displayed in museums around the world; nowadays our athletes’ bodies beautiful are more likely to appear in Sport’s magazine’s weekly ‘Sport Uncovered’ feature. Modern-day Olympic javelin thrower Goldie Sayers threw off her inhibitions – and her clothes – for a photo-shoot and describes here for The Mixed Zone her experience and why she did it
Waking up on a Tuesday morning to an email trail discussing my left nipple was quite surreal. And also mildly amusing. The reason: a naked photo-shoot I did for Sport magazine’s ‘Sport Uncovered’ series. The weekly photo-shoots in the magazine highlight the strength, beauty and difference of athletes’ bodies (male and female) across a whole range of sports, from rugby to rock-climbing. The production team were concerned about making the shot too racy.
From my perspective, I wasn’t worried if my left nipple was included or not since the photographer, John Davis, and the whole production team had never once wanted to objectify or sexualise any of the athletes. To them, and to us as athletes, the shoots signify the effort, dedication, obstacles, resilience and amazing experiences we have enjoyed or endured with the most precious gifts we are ever given – our bodies. Our bodies really are the tools of our trade, and as athletes we have to look after them and respect them.
I find it surprising that in the 21st-century sportswomen can still be criticised for posing nude. We have heard the words ‘pride’ and ‘strength’ used almost hourly in the Olympic coverage as our superheroines use their bodies to strive to achieve something extraordinary. Think Laura Trott in the Velodrome or the GB women’s hockey team who literally put their bodies on the line in front of flying balls to achieve their dream. Indeed, pride and strength is what I see when I look at any of the photographs.
I wish more women would feel pride and strength when they look at their bodies. The thing I was proudest of while doing the shoot was that I could prance around in front of five blokes I had never met, absolutely starkers and feel quite liberated. I wish more women could feel as free as I did, but that is what sport has given me and I feel lucky for that.
We live in an age of instant gratification and the desire to change quickly. Women (and men) spend a fortune trying to change their bodies by injecting things into them, taking things out of them or slapping stuff over them. The reality is that your body will work with you if you work with it. But it takes time.
When I look at my naked photo I think about all the years that I didn’t look like ‘an athlete’. My gift as a child was that I was skilful and co-ordinated, so I was predominantly a team sport or ball games player: netball, hockey, tennis and table tennis. My recent claim to fame is that I played county hockey with Hannah Macleod, who was part of the Olympic gold medal-winning team on Friday night. I was a skilful athlete, but not at all muscular.
When I found javelin in my teens, and decided that I wanted to become an Olympian, I had to work really hard to develop my body into something that would enable me to propel spears a long way and also absorb the forces that the joints receive in the process. This took well over a decade, which is why I feel proud of what I see when I look at my photo.
For me, the key to loving and working with the body you’re given, is in the mind. I do personal training with clients a couple of days a week because I love teaching people how to connect with their bodies and how to develop and re-shape themselves mentally and physically.
With the constant stream of information we take in on a daily basis through our phones, laptops and TVs, the population live their lives so much in their head (and not in their bodies) that their mental and physical health is suffering. Exercise is not only the best medicine for the body but also the mind. If you asked any of our Olympians they would say that they couldn’t have achieved what they have without both working in congruence.
I would imagine that like me, when the other athletes look at their photos, they see what their body and their mind can and have achieved when applied to something that really matters to them. And the self-love, confidence and development that comes with striving for any goal.
Because sporting achievement is something that is hard and not instantaneous or guaranteed, it’s worth the wait. I hope our strong and fabulous female Olympians have inspired the nation to work with their bodies and minds to achieve something they never thought possible. The key to this is health in mind and body – and taking the first step. Literally.
Goldie Sayers’s photo-shoot was photographed and published by Sport magazine who gave permission for The Mixed Zone to reproduce the images here
Sport turns 10 on 29 September. The magazine is distributed at Tube stations across London every Friday, and available to download for free for iOS, Kindle and Android at sport-magazine.co.uk/apps.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Goldie Sayers, is a three-time Olympian, World and European Championship finalist and UK Javelin Champion for the past ten years. Goldie’s latest articles