Natalie Coughlin, the American swimmer and eleven-time Olympic medallist, poses in the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, wearing carefully placed body-paint. Coughlin joins fellow sports stars Natalie Gulbis and Alex Morgan in the issue, which is fronted by model Kate Upton.
Coughlin says she "jumped" at the chance to appear in body-paint, explaining that it took 11 hours to apply while she stood in a New York studio, saying, "I wasn't really nervous about that aspect of it at all. I was just so honored that they thought of me". The Olympian says she was happy to pose for what is considered an "iconic" franchise, saying, "It's awesome to be able to say I have done a Swimsuit Issue. When I'm old and wrinkly and out of shape, I'll be very, very proud of that". The swimsuit issue is read by around 70 million people worldwide, and Natalie says she hopes her appearance will encourage more sports athletes to pose too, saying, "As beautiful as the supermodels are, I think it's great to have different types of bodies.To have an athletic body in SI Swimsuit Issue, I think, is really important. SI is a sports magazine in the first place. So it's nice to have balance between models and athletes".
Cover star Kate Upton was a surprise choice for the prime-position in this year's magazine. The 19-year-old is often praised for her curvaceous figure, though Sports Illustrated historically opts for the more conventional 'supermodel look' for its swimsuit cover.