Anne Belden has experienced many high-pressured situations in her time as a water polo player. But that's difficult to compare to the feelings she had while at a photo shoot in Los Angeles back in July. That's because she was nude.
Belden, a former Newport Harbor High standout, posed for ESPN The Magazine's, "The Body Issue," which hit newsstands Friday.
"You are completely nude and there are people just walking around in the background," Belden said of the photo shoot. "It was a little intimidating.
"I don't think you can compare it to anything else. I haven't done anything like that. It was cool. But it's definitely the first time I've done something like that. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time."
Belden also posed with her USA Women's National teammates and they appeared on one of six covers. She stood at the end of the line of naked women, holding a ball below her belly.
She's also featured in the inside pages, an eye-catcher that's under water.
She said she hasn't received any negative comments. She had support from her family to do the photos.
"I think it's great," Belden said of the photos. "I think it's great for women's water polo. It's great for our exposure. Having 2012 coming up, I feel that water polo is becoming popular. This can be awesome for our sport."
Belden, also a former UCLA standout, helped the U.S. women's water polo team to the gold medal in the FINA World Cup in August. She scored seven goals in five games.
Since then she's been back at home in Newport Beach. Monday she's leaving for New York.
She'll be at a launch party for the Body Issue Tuesday at Skylight SoHo near Manhattan.
"When I first thought about the shoot, I thought it was more like athletes seen as sex symbols," Belden, 23, said. "It doesn't have anything to do with being a sex symbol. It's more about looking at the athlete's body. I see it more in an artistic way."
Belden plans to continue training upon her return from New York. Full-time training won't begin until January, she said.
She remains excited for the future, but she knows she has quite the memento for the summer of 2010, when she posed nude.
"It will probably be on the coffee table for a while," she said of the Body Issue. "I don't know where it will go, but it will go somewhere safe."