Leroux without a stitch of clothing on

Behind the scenes of Sydney Leroux's ESPN The Magazine Body Issue photo shoot.

Why did you decide to pose?
SL: I think a lot of females struggle with the way they look, and I wanted to show that everyone's body is different. I think it's a big deal to be an athlete and feel confident in your body and show it off. I'm not going to say I've never struggled with how I look, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with who I am.

What sort of athlete were you growing up?
SL: Both my parents were baseball and softball players. My mom [Sandi Leroux] played third base on the softball national team. So it was in my blood. From the moment I started to walk, I was throwing a ball. I was all baseball growing up. I had this dream that I was going to be the first female player in MLB. I realized that wasn't going to happen when all my guy friends sprouted and were like 6-foot-3 and I stayed my size.

What do you like about your body?
SL: I like that I have scars. I have scars all over my legs. I don't ever try to hide them; they remind me of how hard I play. I like that I look tough. It's something to celebrate, and it's my job.

If you could change something about your body, what would it be?
SL: Maybe a couple of years ago I would have changed something, but now I'm happy -- though I might change my hair because when it rains it turns into an Afro. I struggled in college with how my body looked. I would say my legs looked too big. I wasn't confident. High school, too -- even more than college, actually. I was at a school where there were no people of my ethnicity. Everyone was blonde and skinny, and I was different. It made me want to be something I wasn't. When I got to college, that changed because UCLA was pretty diverse. Now I like what I have, but I think if you talk to any girl, in high school she wanted to be like everyone else.

What is the most unusual training you've done?
SL: I love yoga. Yoga calms me. But I'm not a fan of hot yoga. Why would I want to sit in my own sweat for an hour and a half? When I got to Boston, a friend of mine was like, "Come do it with me!" It ended up being absolutely the worst experience of my life.

What is the one exercise you can't live without?
SL: My ab workouts. My roommates and I do crunches before bed, just for fun, for about 20 minutes. You can have ice cream and some cake right before bed, and then you'll do some abs and not worry about it.

Your coach at UCLA, Jillian Ellis, said you would "two-foot tackle her grandmother for the ball." Why do you play so physical?
SL: I'm very competitive. I'm a forward, so being physical isn't really part of my position, but I like that physical part of soccer. I was always pretty tough as a little kid. Baseball isn't a physical game, but I'd be aggressive at the plate or slide hard or steal when I wasn't supposed to. I say even if I'm having a bad game, I should have my effort. Especially for a forward, if offense isn't going well, make it up with defense. It makes me feel I'm doing something right, contributing something to the game.

What is your biggest challenge with your body?
SL: I've had back problems since I was young, but it's never taken me out of a game, so I've been lucky. I run weird, so I guess that's my issue; my back is very arched when I run. I just deal with it now, but I'm not sure what I'll be like in 20 years.

Tell us about your body art.
SL: I have a lot of tattoos. It's a way to express yourself and tell a story without having to speak. I get tattoos to remind me what I've been through. There's one on my back of my mom and me, and I got that after I moved away from home. It says, "You believed in me first." It reminds me where I came from and how hard it was and to keep going.

How much of your physique would you attribute to nature versus nurture?
SL: I'm not the healthiest person in the world, so I would side more with nature. I really like candy; I like sugary cereals; I don't like salads; I'm not a fan of vegetables. I was a vegetarian for three years, and my diet pretty much consisted of candy and cereal. Now I'm way healthier than I used to be, but still, my physique is probably a gift from my parents.

What would you define as your edge, mentally?
SL: I'm fearless. I'll try anything once. I tried to go bungee jumping last year before the Olympics, and my mom stopped me: "What if something happens?" I'm like, "Nothing is going to happen." But she didn't let me.

I used to snowboard, but I no longer can. At the FIFA awards in 2008, we went skiing in the Swiss Alps, and I almost died. I had never skied before, and I was going down this hill too fast, and I started to panic. "I'm going to hit this barricade, and it's going to stop me." My skis hit the bottom of the barricade and flipped me over the barrier, and I was thrown a good 15 to 20 feet through the air onto never-touched snow. I was so lucky. After I got up we were just dying laughing because it was hilarious, but it was a scary moment. I don't ski anymore.

I was all baseball growing up. I had this dream that I was going to be the first female player in MLB. `

What is a mental weakness you fight?
SL: I doubt myself when things aren't going well. On the road to the Olympic team, I felt like I couldn't have a bad practice. I never allow any room for error. If I don't score for a few games, I'll think, "I've scored all the goals I will in my career. I'll never score again." But it's a good thing -- I never get complacent.

What is the worst thing you've been through mentally?
SL: Leaving my family [in Canada] to come to the U.S. Going to Arizona and not having friends or family and having to start over. I don't know how I did it. I don't know if I could do it again. There were times when I'd call my mom crying, saying I didn't want to do this anymore and I wanted to come home, and she'd tell me to trust that it was going to be worth it. It was a good lesson. But would I want it for anyone else? Probably not.

What about your body would surprise us?
SL: I've had abs since I was like 4. That's the funniest quirk. There's a video of me doing a workout in front of my TV when I was 3. I put a tape in the VCR and did my mom's workout tapes. The abs didn't come about because of those workouts though; that comes back to nature.

What do you tell yourself when you feel like you can't train anymore?
SL: My happy place will always be having that gold medal put around my neck and knowing how hard I worked to get to that place. Every athlete dreams of being an Olympian or winning a World Cup or World Series or Super Bowl, and to get it at 22 was crazy. When I'm training, I'll remember that moment and ask myself, "How bad do you want it?"

What is your one must-have junk food?
SL: Swedish Fish. I have a bag before every game. I figure it's a good time to have them. "OK, I probably just ate 1,500 calories -- I'm going to run it off."

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