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Athletes Share Insecurities and Inspiration in ESPN Body Issue

ESPN released its digital version of its annual Body Issue. It features athletes of all sizes from various corners of the sports world.
Dwayne Wade on the cover of this year's ESPN Body Issue.
Dwayne Wade on the cover of this year's ESPN Body Issue.Carlos Serrao /

Complete with an array of household names and rising stars, ESPN released its digital version of its annual Body Issue, which is now available on magazine stands.

It features athletes of all sizes from various corners of the sports world. These athletes expound upon their biggest insecurities and inspirations in heartfelt interviews that are juxtaposed next to their unclad bodies.

Here are the black athletes from this year's edition, and a bit of what they shared with ESPN's Morty Ain.

Nzingha Prescod, Fencing

"Yes, there are black fencers," Prescod told ESPN.

The olympic-bound fencer got into fencing at age nine with the encouragement of her mother. She stuck with it because she was drawn to the fact that "you never do the same thing twice."

As a curvy athlete, she shares her struggles that come with that territory—she says her breasts get in her way during matches, and when she's not competing she can't find jeans to fit her waist.

"I do like my curves," she said. "I just don't think they make clothes to fit my proportions."

Prescod is proud of the work she's put in for her muscular build, and she hopes to inspire other women to feel the same way.

"I hope my feature encourages women everywhere to embrace muscles and strength and to love their bodies."

Claressa Shields, Boxing

Claressa Shields will represent the United States at the Olympics in the biggest boxing weight class at 165 pounds. With her shorter stature, muscular legs, and quick foot speed, she feels that she's at an advantage compared to other boxers in her class.

But Shields has not always had that level of confidence in her day-to-day life.

"For a long time, I thought my nose was pretty big," Shields told ESPN. "But now I think I'm very beautiful, even though my lips are big too, but whatever, I don't care. My dad and my sister have a big nose too. I'm fine with it."

She feels like she's Serena Williams' "little twin" because of their looks, builds, and their being from Michigan. Shields recognizes her platform will be a chance to uplift people in her hometown of Flint, Michigan.

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"Im fighting for more than just a medal," Shields said. "I'm fighting for my family, I'm fighting for my future, I'm fighting for my city—to give them some hope and faith, because it's so bad in Flint.

"I always fight harder than I would if I were fighting for just a medal."

Antonio Brown, NFL

"Being passed up by teams because of my size made me hungry," Brown said about being a "small receiver."

Brown has dedicated his life to changing the perception of small receivers by working hard and taking care of his body by eating nutritiously—he loves mango season in particular for that reason.

As a sixth-round draft pick in 2010, Brown had his work cut out for him. Since then, Brown has achieved great milestones with the Pittsburgh Steelers including being named AFC co-offensive player of the year in 2014 alongside his teammate Le'Veon Bell.

"I think guys who come from the bottom understand how hard it is, so they appreciate the opportunities more," he added.

That hard work to get to the top of his game, comes from Brown's dedication to be the best.

"Every morning you wake up and your mind tells you it's too early," Brown said, "and your body tells you you're a little too sore, but you've got to look deep within yourself and know what you want and what you're striving for."

Von Miller, NFL

In a charming interview, Miller of the Denver Broncos shares with the magazine his quirks—from his desire to get an "Andy" from "Toy Story" tattoo, to feeling like a geek his whole life, a proud one at that.

Miller also shares how tearing his ACL just after coming off of a six game suspension changed him.

"But the ACL injury was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It helped me create a work ethic and really understand consistency."

Since the injury, Miller has been on a winning streak and helped the Broncos win a Superbowl this February. He finds motivation in knowing that there are people that lean on him to get the job done.

"On the football field, it's very single day, every play, knowing that people are depending on me to make my play," Miller said. "That helps me elevate my game to another level."

Dwayne Wade, NBA

In this relatable interview, Wade, the former Miami Heat star, talks to ESPN about the struggles of becoming an aging athlete, his disdain for cardio, and dealing with injuries.

He knows you probably can't believe it, but Wade has struggled with insecurity his whole life. Doing the body issue for him was more about overcoming his childhood fear of being judged.

"When I was young, my belly button was an outie," Wade said, "and I never even wanted to take my shirt off when we were at the swimming pool or outside during water fights.

"The only people who went into the pool with their shirts on were the kids who were overweight -- and me."

Wade says he was never comfortable until about four years ago. It took time, change, and growth for him to achieve even walking around naked in the house with his wife, or being able to make a lighthearted joke about his "outie."

"As you go through life, you get more comfortable with yourself," he said.

Vince Wilfork, NFL

Wilfork, a two-time Super Bowl champ who plays for the Houston Texans, opened up about stereotypes about "bigger-boned" people, as Wilfork calls it.

"Everybody knows that I have a big stomach, but I think sometimes that overshadows everything else on my body—from my calves to my back to my shoulders to my biceps, you name it," he told the magazine.

His wife, Bianca Wilfork, also weighed in on her desire to see more "Wilfork-sized" guys in sports ads for companies like Nike and Under Armour.

"But yet you have somebody that's going on 13 years in the league, four times to the Super Bowl, a great guy on and off the field," she said. "You couldn't ask for a better fit ... he's just got a big tummy. I feel like it's almost discriminatory."

Endorsements for big guys like Wilfork, will just be something else for him to tackle.

"If people can look at me, a guy that's 325-plus, doing an issue like this," Wilfork said, "I'm pretty sure that they might have a little confidence."

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