The typical female athlete has evolved from the butch-looking swimmers of East Germany in the 1980s to the very feminine sportswomen who now grace the covers of magazines with minimal clothing.
For many women athletes, especially the pretty ones like Lolo Jones, Julie Chu, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold - who are all competing in the ongoing Sochi Winter Olympics, - baring their bodies for magazines or commercial endorsements has become part of the things they need to do to fund their training for the next four years until the next summer or winter games.
It's partly due to the double standard in the world of sports where 96 per cent of the airtime during international or local competitions is hogged by male athletes who gets the bulk of the juicy contracts and endorsements, while the remaining 4 per cent are divided among the prettier female athlete.
However, while acknowledging the double standard, Kevin Adler, chief engagement officer of Engage Marketing, a marketing agency, pointed out that the basis of these juicy deals is performance for male athletes, while for sportswomen it is a combination of their looks and performance.
Thus, to attract a bigger male audience, the Women's National Basketball Association offers make-up seminars for new player, while women athletes from sports such as skiing or golf who are decently dressed when playing, are willing to pose wearing bikinis or less articles of clothing in pictorials.
Time magazine noted that while these extra efforts earn them sponsorships, the amounts are smaller compared to what male athletes get, explaining why in Sports Illustrated's 2013 list of the 50 highest-earning athletes, there was no female.
And for those pretty enough to land endorsement deals, they could suffer some backlash like what figure skater Ashley Wagner experienced in January when some mediamen wrote that she got a spot in the Olympic Figure Skating team on the strength of her beauty, not skating talent.
U.S. Women's Hockey forward Julie Chu was approached by ESPN the Magazine to appear naked on its Body Issue. She initially balked at the offer, but when told that the focus was on strength and not sex, she agreed to pose without clothes.
She explained, "That issue really highlights that there's a lot of different types of bodies for elite athletes, and all of them can be beautiful and strong and confident."
The issue highlighted her big legs. Julie said, "We've got to be able to motor on the ice and have balance. But we can still have more muscular body types and be beautiful in our own right."
In the case of Russian female athletes, to drum up Sochi's hosting of the winter games, some of them also appeared in sexy pictorials.