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Thursday, September 14, 2000

Skin, then win!

Several Olympic athletes -- including Edmonton kayaker David Ford -- are giving 'exposure' new meaning


 SYDNEY -- They're naked as jaybirds. Everywhere you turn there are Olympic athletes in their birthday suits.

 Four years from now in Athens it would have been perfect. The first Olympics were held there in the buff. But they're dropping their drawers here. These are the nude Olympics.

 Winning isn't everything. Skin, then win is their motto. Winning isn't everything. Wearing nothing is something.

 The hottest selling souvenir of these Olympics isn't a stuffed Syd the Platypus or an official Olympic boomerang. It's a copy of the Sydney Dream featuring 236 pages of barenaked ladies and gentlemen from the Australian Olympic team.

 (You know you've got a great job when you can put a $35 nudie book on your expense account.)

 Then there's Sports Illustrated. It's like an extra printing of their swimsuit issue.

 Five-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Jenny Thompson is featured on one page totally topless, hands over her breasts. Australia's women's softball team isn't covering those particular assets on a picture on page 26.

 And Canada's not to be outstripped at these Olympics either.

 On the front of the Canadian edition of Time magazine, the stunning water polo player Waneek Horn-Miller stares back at you wearing nothing but a smile. And a feather.

 READY TO GO SKINNY DIPPING

 And on the inside pages there's David Ford, Edmonton's world champion kayaker in the raw! He's holding his boat over his head in the middle of white water looking ready to go skinny-dipping.

 "Oh, boy, you saw it huh?'' he said. "I just saw a copy for the first time last night myself. What can I say?''

 Goodness gracious, David, how are your mom and dad taking this?

 "My parents saw it,'' he reports. "They think I'm nuts.

 "But at least they agree that the Olympic physique is a more realistic role model than silicone and steriods so they are pretty positive about the magazine.''

 Ford said being nude is nothing new for a kayaker.

 "I have to change in parking lots all over the world to do my sport. I have one of the only jobs in the world where I can get naked in public and wear a rubber skirt and people actually think it's cool.

 '`I said all of that when I was talking to the people from Time. In retrospect maybe I shouldn't have opened my big mouth.

 "We did the shoot in Chilliwack, B.C. in March. It was very cold. Very, very cold.

 "Looking back, I can't believe I did it.

 "The whole thing was very comical. We did a day in the studio and then we went on location. They had big lights set up on the side of the river. Rednecks in pickup trucks were driving over the bridge shaking their heads.''

 His knee is lifted to conceal the obvious.

 Ford admits it. Basically it came down to having a chance to be on the cover of Time magazine.

 "I think the lure of a Time magazine cover shot was more than I could turn down. Now, having seen Waneek, I think I'll stick to keeping my clothes on,'' he said.

 COMFORTABLE WITH IT

 Waneek first saw the cover when Sun media teammate Chris Stevenson of CANOE showed her his copy here the other day. She signed it.

 "I'm very comfortable with my own body,'' she said. "But to see myself on the cover of Time ... I'm OK with it.''

 Her mom loves it.

 "My mother said to me 'You're not going to have that body forever. A few years from now you're going to look back at it and say wow.'''

 Besides, she has plenty of company. Posing nude has become a part of the Olympic experience.

 "It seems to be a kind of a trend at this Olympics. Some of our coaches were saying if this happened at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 it would have been a scandal,'' says Waneek.

 "But in this day and age people are looking at the body as a strong, powerful and beautiful thing.

 "There's a trend to pose in the nude for the Olympics. Maybe by Athens everybody is going to be nude.''

 Personally, I hope they get this nude thing under control. I mean, next thing you know we'll all have to pose nude for Olympic accreditation identification pictures. Why they might even be asking us to pose nude for a Team Sun Olympic coverage calendar.

 There. Try to get that picture out of your head for the rest of the day.

 Let the nude Games begin!