The American Olympic swimming champion Natalie Coughlin and the LPGA golfer Natalie Gulbis have both caused a stir by appearing in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. And whilst it might seem that Coughlin would be the more comfortable of the athletes, posing in a bikini, it transpires that, in fact, neither of the sports star was wearing a swimsuit at all, for the photo shoot.

Instead, the 'swimwear' was painted on by professional body painters, to give an illusion of real clothing. Coughlin posed for the photos showing off her toned body, but also, some impressive artistry, with a blue and white ripple-effect 'bikini' painted on. She told USA Today "It feels like something in between a swimsuit -- and being naked." The body paint reportedly took 11 hours to apply perfectly and she says that she stood the whole time and felt honored that the magazine's editors had thought of her to take part. The annual swimsuit edition of the magazine often causes controversy for portraying athletes in skimpy clothing but Coughlin says "It's awesome to be able to say I have done a Swimsuit Issue. When I'm old and wrinkly and out of shape, I'll be very, very proud of that. To have an athletic body in SI Swimsuit Issue, I think, is really important. SI is a sports magazine in the first place. So it's nice to have balance between models and athletes."

And Natalie Gulbis, the American golfer of Latvian descent is depicted as wearing a green and white bikini, with a pink tie expertly drawn on, as though holding the bikini in place. The 19 year-old equestrian Kate Upton is also included in the swimsuit issue, as were the male athletes Michael Phelps, Rafael Nadal and Chris Paul.