Buff in the Buff
Top athletes, including Olympic gold medalist and former UA swimmer Amy Van Dyken, get down to the skinny for a touring promotional exhibit.
A.J. FLICK Citizen Staff Writer
Amy Van Dyken is used to posing in her swimsuit. But her birthday suit? That’s another matter.
After pitching products from asthma spray to Wheaties, the exUA swimmer was asked to pose nude for famed photographer Herb Ritts. The photos would be used in a traveling exhibit of 13 worldclass athletes to promote TAG Heuer’s new line of watches, Kirium.
”At first, I was a little hesitant to do it,” Van Dyken, 24, said Friday from her Englewood, Colo., home. ”But once they explained to me what they wanted, I felt better.
”They wanted the athlete’s body, and the reason they wanted the athletic look is that their new watch, Kirium, is very beautiful, with definite, strong, pure lines, and the only thing they could think to equate it with was an athlete’s body.
”I think it works very well,” the four-time Olympic gold medalist said. ”But it’s a little like Shakespeare. You have to read a lot into it in order to get it.”
One of the photos shows the 6foot swimmer from behind, crouching. Another is a profile of her face.
The photo shoot was easier than she thought it would be.
”Usually on photo shoots, there are tons of people around. But this was a closed set, meaning only the necessary people were there.
”Herb Ritts, knowing how competitive I am, said he shot Dan O’Brien the day before, and he was trotting happily all over the beach. So I said, ‘Oh! I can do this!’ ”
There was one benefit to posing nude, she said, ”I don’t have to worry if my swimsuit is just right.”
Ritts also photographed Van Dyken’s left ankle, which bears a tattoo of the Olympic rings. However, Ritts decided not to use that photo.
”An ankle isn’t all that attractive,” he told USA TODAY.
The exhibit, ”Form,” contains no full frontal nudity. The exhibit was set to open today in Los Angeles and to close Sunday. It will be seen in 40 cities worldwide by December.
Besides Van Dyken, other buff bodies include decathlete O’Brien and tennis player Boris Becker.
Van Dyken had final approval over all her photos. She was apprehensive at first, then pleased at how well they turned out. Later, she saw the entire collection.
”Oh, my gosh, I thought they were great!” she said. ”I thought, ‘Now people will get to see athletes in a different light.’ You look at Dan O’Brien when he’s competing and you see an aggressive guy. Then you look at him in the pictures, you don’t see that side of him. He’s really an attractive man.
”My mom has fallen in love with Dan O’Brien,” she added.
Asked what other side people will see of her, she said, ”Besides my butt, you mean?”
”People have commented on my back,” she continued, ”how strong it is. They didn’t realize swimmers had strong backs. That’s the beauty of the pictures. Sometimes I look at them, and I can’t believe it’s me.”
Even her husband, swimmer Alan McDaniel, who was ”iffy” about the nude photos, liked them.
TAG Heuer watches sell for $350 to $2,200 at Ben Bridge Jeweler in Tucson Mall. Kiriums go for $1,300 to $1,695.
Not only did Van Dyken get one of the ultra-stylish Kiriums, but her family also received some.
”I asked, ‘Have you ever wanted a TAG watch?’ With my family, it was, ‘No, we’ve never even seen one. We can’t afford to even look at one.’ ”
Van Dyken said she never endorses a product she won’t use.
”With the watch situation, it was a little different because in my sport, I don’t use a watch all of the time. But I like TAG Heuer watches. They’re gorgeous. And how they wanted to promote the athlete – that was really important to me. I had to take that into account.”
Plus, it was much less painful than the ”Milk: Where’s Your Mustache?” ad campaign, for which she had to pose underwater while sporting one of those famous milk mustaches.
”It was the first time ever in the campaign that they painted the mustache on,” Van Dyken said. ”They used watered-down latex paint, but they were so worried it would come off.”
A man named Norman, who does all the mustaches, inspected her lip each time she came up for breath.
”But he didn’t have to worry,” she said. ”When they wanted it to come off, it wouldn’t.”
Van Dyken, who swam for UA in 1993-94, is the only American woman to win four gold medals in one Olympics. She’s training for the world championships, after which her sights are on the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Van Dyken had hoped to rest after the Atlanta Olympics last year and return to studying human development at Colorado State University. That plan was shelved.
”Yes, swimming’s kind of taken over,” she said. ”It’s something I love so much. When I was away from it for four months after the Olympics, I was missing it. I was missing the way I felt after a really good workout. I lost muscle tone. Shirts fit differently, and I didn’t have the self-confidence I once had. Then I started training again, and I got that itch – I want to do it.
”But after Sydney,” she said, ”that’s it. If I get the itch, that’s too bad.”
Herb Ritts (right)
The Associated Press (below)
Amy Van Dyken in the Ritts exhibit (right) and at Olympics (below).