Aja Evans reveals the naked truth

Philip Hersh
Chicago Tribune

On a day when nearly all her body was exposed to the world, 2014 Olympic bobsled medalist Aja Evans was honing it for an attempt to reach elite status in another sport.

The 26-year-old Chicagoan is among 22 athletes, along with swimming legend Michael Phelps, tennis star Venus Williams and Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch, featured in ESPN The Magazine’s 2014 Body Issue, posing in the altogether with props, hands, or photo angles covering sensitive areas.

Not long after she pushed Jamie Greubel’s sled to third place in Sochi last February, Evans relocated to Phoenix to resume training in her previous sport, track and field.  A Big Ten shotput champion for Illinois and fourth in the state at 100 meters for Morgan Park High School, she now hopes to use that speed and power in the heptathlon.

ESPN approached Evans for the Body Issue in March.  She had no qualms about revealing a 5-foot, 10-inch, 170-pound body that had been tightly covered from neck-to-feet by a skinsuit in the Winter Olympics.

"Those onesies are pretty much the same thing (as being nude)," Evans said, laughing, in a telephone conversation after practice Tuesday.  "It’s like one giant tattoo.  You can see the muscles firing, the tension and everything else."

Evans had been a big fan of the Body Issue since 2009, when she saw Adrian Peterson and Serena Williams pictured in the first one.  She knew her mother, Secquoria Mallory, would worry about naked truth until she saw the photos of her daughter were much more Poussin than Playboy.

ESPN put the photos on the Internet Tuesday.  The magazine is on newsstands Friday.

"It’s kind of like a form of art," Evans said.

Like many powerful, muscular women, Evans remembers having insecurities about how she looked when she went from a “little scrawny sprinter” in high school to a bulkier weight event specialist in college.

"These muscles in my shoulders and arms started coming out of nowhere,” she said.  "At first, you are a little self-conscious because you still want to be this feminine person.  It comes as a little shock.  Then you start embracing it and see how well you are doing.  After a while, you stop looking at in such a negative way, and then it starts becoming empowering.

"The attractiveness comes from that confidence, from being in love with who you are, regardless of what size it is.  If you are a thin, willowy model or more muscular, it’s more how you wear it.

"When it comes to the Body Issue, I think people admire our athletic figures and our muscles and what we are capable of doing."

Evans, who has just begun studies toward an MBA at DeVry's Keller Graduate School of Management, plans to wait until next year to test her capabilities in track and field competition, starting with a few individual events and possibly a pentathlon at indoor meets.

She has not ruled out a return to bobsled in a couple years, despite the bad taste left by the U.S. bobsled federation’s inexplicable decision to take her out of the top sled at the Olympics.

"I would have to sit down and talk to them (federation officials) and get a better understanding of all the changes," Evans said, "but I’m definitely open-minded about it.  I’m blessed to have gotten this far.

"When everybody wanted to know what I thought and how I felt, I was like, 'Listen, I came in here as Aja Evans and I’m leaving as Aja Evans The Olympic Bronze Medalist for a sport I had only been in for two years.'"

That’s already a pretty good body of work.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad