Commentary

Sarah Reinertsen talks bods with Page 2

Originally Published: October 20, 2009
By Scoop Jackson | Page 2

Focus on the right leg.

If you have the nerve. It's what you need to do, because that's where the story is. Just look at it. Look at the shape, the structure, the beauty, the thickness. When you look at Sarah Reinertsen, don't pay attention to the mechanically constructed leg that is partially responsible for making her famous -- look at the "other" one.

The one you never noticed.

But it doesn't stop there. It extends. Her arms, her hands, her feet, the arch in her back, her breasts, her butt. Yes, I wrote that. Because when discussing the body of this world-class athlete (2005 Ironman World Championship finisher, five-time amputee world-record holder, 2006 ESPY Award winner for Best Female Athlete with a Disability), it is necessary to accentuate the positive. And in Sarah's case, the positive is all over her.

[+] EnlargeSarah Reinertsen
Sheryl Nields for ESPN The MagSarah Reinertsen wasn't always completely comfortable with her body, but she certainly is now.

Even when she blushes while talking about her sexiness.

It's Friday, the day her nude body on the cover of ESPN The Magazine hits the newsstands. Sarah is extremely open about her body, although it hasn't always been that way. She has struggled for years to find comfort in her body, and she has finally come to grips with the overwhelming fact that she might be one of the sexiest athletes in the world.

There are other athletes in ESPN The Mag's "The Body Issue" who will garner more attention for their athletic sex appeal -- Serena Williams, Lolo Jones, Natasha Kai, Claire Bevilacqua, Zdeno Chara and Oguchi Onyewu, to name a few. Many readers will overlook Sarah, missing the sexiness of the other leg hidden beneath the Ossur®-built leg on the cover … while her naked picture stares back at you.

Here's what you do: Look at Olivia Wilde, who many will agree is one of the sexiest women in the world, on the cover of GQ. Then look at Sarah on the cover of ESPN The Mag. Again, look at that right leg. Look at the shape of it, the curves, the muscularity. Look at the difference in the curvature of her hips compared to Wilde's. Look at the total package.

Scoop: I read a quote, and I'm looking at you now and it's hard for me to believe, but you said you struggled with your body image all of your life.

Sarah: It was around the time I was 11 years old, when I had a burning of the bra moment where I cut the form and ripped off the foam exterior of the [prosthetic] leg because I knew I wasn't fooling anybody. Like I knew I was part metal, part machine, but that was a big transition for me. Being comfortable enough to take off the cover, that foam exterior, and really expose my disability. But I remember when I started running, being in the gym for the first time. I started lifting weights and I was like, "Wow, I got a biceps under here! I got some quad under here!" I remember feeling, like, totally empowered. Like, "I have this weird-looking leg, but I can get these really ripped arms!" Like, "Look at this leg; this could be a leg of steel." And that totally motivated me. It was like I could create the body I want. Granted, I can't change this [she puts her hand on her prosthetic leg], but that's OK. I can sculpt the rest of my body.

So that was your moment? That's when you began to get … this?

I also remember feeling like, "I'm going to show them." Like, I'm going to be the most ripped, badass girl in the school. That was my goal. And I loved that feeling. Like, you can create the body you want. And I'm not talking surgery [laughs].

OK, that's where I want to go with you. I want to talk about the "other" leg. It's crazy! [Sarah laughs, says "Yeah," as if she knows, but blushes at the same time.] From a man's standpoint, it's beautiful. But I don't know what you see when you look at it. You see it as being ripped, you see the quads and the muscles, but there's a sex appeal to that. There's a sex appeal to your whole body. I can see that. But what do you see when you look at your entire body? Do you see the athletic side or do you see what I'm seeing?

That's a very hard question to answer without sounding very vain [laugh]. It's only now that I'm starting to feel sexy. It's only been in the last 10 years. I've [always] felt athletic, but we [tend to] get affirmation from the people around us, and none of the boys in high school asked me out. I went stag to every dance at school because none of the boys would ask me out. But it wasn't until I got into my 20s that boys that had turned into men were not so intimidated about going out [with] me. I started to get that affirmation of being asked out, I started to be seen as sexy. So it really didn't shift for me until those later college years, where I really started feeling like, "Hey, I'm really not a dog. These guys are asking me out. Maybe I am sexy." And to be honest, that's why this [ESPN The Mag] cover is so important to me and why I'm so proud of it. I just look at it and go, "Wow, I was the girl that no one would ask to the senior prom and now I'm on the cover of ESPN!"

Naked!

[Giving me five] Yeah, lookin' hot and sexy! And just … for me, I can feel how far I've come.

Now, you got the thickness thing goin' on …

I know! I got the brothas' booty! I'm all about the brothas' booty [laugh]. I have to tell you, with the blonde hair, I'm just sayin', I could be Kryptonite.

Do you think that your body shape would be the same without the workouts you've been doing all your life? I mean, do you think you'd be as thick? Or is it more nature that gave you the shape that you have now?

Look, I've had to always work out harder just to walk down the street. You know what I mean? I hop in the shower everyday. Standing on one leg for hours. I ski on one leg. So just physically, to live, I'm using my body way more just to keep up. So I think my body has been trained its entire life. Not just in the gym, but just to like get up and do [whatever]. I feel like I've been training my whole life for this body, but I don't know if I wasn't born this way, if I had two legs … I could be a fat slob. I don't know if I would have become an Ironman. I don't know if I'd have become a marathoner. So maybe in some way, that was part of the gift that gave me this body.

You said you felt emotionally liberated after doing the book ["In a Single Bound: Losing My Leg, Finding Myself, and Training for Life"] and you told me that doing the ESPN cover was a whole new form of liberation, a physical liberation. I want to know what that is about. Was it about you exposing your body or was it about something else?

I was a little nervous that they were going to ask me to do [the shoot] without my leg on. And I really don't like to be photographed without my leg because it's a part of my body. And then there's something about not having my leg on, that that's when I am really disabled. That's where I have this disconnect where if I have my leg on I can stand. I'm powerful. But without my leg, I'm weak. So I was nervous. I didn't know what the photographer was going to do. So I was like, "Oh God, what if they really want a picture of my [naked] body?" And I hate the scars on my stump. I have like big, large scars on it. Plus, it's a weird, funny shape. What's actually under my socket is the part of my body that I've struggled with. I really do.[Every day] I look at those scars, and I'm like, "Wow, that's a part of me."

Because still technically it is a part of your body.

Yeah. That's why I say my whole life I've been dealing with issues with my body. And it's real intimate. Like I wrote a little bit in the book about it, like how, just think about dating, from my perspective. Like, I didn't know, like "OK, what order does this go? Does the leg come off after the bra or before the bra?" Those are things I had to think about, had to deal with. Like at what stage of any relationship I'm in do I take my leg off? And then, if the lights are on, do I really want to show this scarred leg to the guy? What if he freaks out when he sees it? I mean, now I'm engaged, and he's totally comfortable. He knew of my story, so he was prepared. But before that … look, I'm 34 now, so I've had some years of dating practice [laughs], but still there were times when a guy would be fine with it with my pants on, but once he sees my leg off he's like, "Dude, I can't handle this. I'm out." You know? I had to worry about that rejection. It was always hard for me in that first intimacy.

So what's the next move for you? You've done kinda done the nude thing on ESPN, so is it Maxim, FHM, is it … I know you're not thinking of going the Hef route?

No, no! There are certain boundaries.

OK, let's take your disability out of the picture. How does it feel for you to know that people are going to put your body in the same conversation with Serena's and Lolo's? I mean …

That's why this issue is so special. I think ESPN is helping to redefine what's beautiful and sexy. I'm sorry, but models are clothes hangers. Walking clothes hangers. And here we have athletes that are powerful machines! It's adding a layer to what's really beautiful and sexy. And it's helping us get away from [the mentality] that these wafer-thin models in the fashion industry are creating something that is unattainable for the average person.

But hold up, this -- your body -- is kinda hard to attain also. C'mon now.

True. But then I kept thinking, "Man, I have spent a lot of hours in the gym to make this body. So I gotta be proud." That's what I thought about during the photo shoot. I was telling myself, "Show it off man. You've worked hard." Take it off and show it off.

That said, what is your favorite part of your body, and what to you is the sexiest?

My favorite part of my body is probably my right leg. It's just … it's got … yeah, I'm all about that leg [laughs]. And I want to say my butt is the sexiest, but my butt is uneven. My right butt cheek is way more [shapely] than my left. So…

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com

Scoop Jackson | email

ESPN.com columnist

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