Laurie Toby Edison


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The Hidden Diversity of Athletes

Laurie and Debbie say:

Before the holidays, comic artist Nina Matsumoto blogged an amazing set of photographs of Olympic athletes. The photographs, by Howard Schatz and Beverly Ornstein, are studio shots of dozens of athletes from different sports.

six athletes, including four jumpers, a gymnast, and a wrestler

(The captions give the athletes’ names and sports. You can see them by going to Matsumoto’s blog and clicking on the individual photographs.)

Matsumoto says:

This photoshoot serves as awesome reference reminding us artists that strong bodies come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and muscles show up in different ways. It also helps us keep in mind that not everyone who is fit is also lean. There’s often a layer of fat over the muscles, making them less visible for some.

four athletes, including Cheryl Haworth, well-known fat weightlifter

As a society, we have a tendency to think that “athletic” is a body type, instead of being aware of just how much athletes’ bodies adapt (through incredibly hard work) to their chosen sports. We rarely get to see the range of athletic bodies, which means that most athletes rarely get to see images of themselves outside of the locker rooms and arenas of their own sports.

bodybuilders and weightlifters

The most common image we associate with “athlete” in these times is the image of the bodybuilder. In fact, bodybuilding is not a sport in any meaningful sense of the word, although it is an Olympic competition. Bodybuilders are sculpting their bodies to match a particular aesthetic; the muscle-building is for how it looks, not what else it does. A dedicated bodybuilder is not likely to be an especially good gymnast, runner, skier, swimmer, fencer, or weightlifter, to name a few.

Take your time with the pictures; you’ll get a lot out of looking at them.

Thanks to wordweaverlynn for the pointer.

5 Responses to “The Hidden Diversity of Athletes”

  1. I used to feel self-conscious about my generous buttocks and solid thighs. Until one Olympics, when I started to notice all this body shape diversity among the athletes. And how I was roughly the same body shape as the sprinters. There’s almost enough diversity that anyone can find a match to their own body, and I find that really inspiring when the rest of the culture tries to pretend there’s only one body shape ideal (or two, in fact, for men and women).

  2. gexx says:

    Gorgeous! I really enjoyed seeing how wrestlers/weightlifters look so different from the bodybuilders. We equate muscle with strength, and obviously the bodybuilders are not weak, but to see the results of training toward the different goals is super interesting.

  3. Love the photos.

    Julie Wyman, who also made a film about the Padded Lilies, is making a new film about Olympic weightlifter Cheryl Haworth, who is one of the atheletes pictured above. Here’s a link to her facebook page about the movie, which is called Strong.!/pages/STRONG/163711680891?v=info

  4. J Davis says:

    It also shows beautifully how humans have adapted to many climates; the stocky for the cold climates and the lanky for the hot climates. It would be nice if we could celebrate body shape and size diversity as much as we now celebrate diversity of skin, hair and eye color.

  5. Rachael says:

    This is great to see…great photographs! I think it is especially helpful for those with eating disorders to see that we DO come in all shapes and sizes, including Olympic athletes who have some of the strongest/fittest bodies in the world.

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