By Steve Ginsburg
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Free-spirited snowboard champion Hannah Teter is ready for battle against critics of her bikini-clad pictorial in a popular sports magazine.
The 23-year-old American winner of the 2006 Olympic half-pipe defended her Sports Illustrated spread in which she appears in her bikini.
"I was really amped up to do that because I don't believe in the criminalization of bodies and women having to be ashamed of their bodies," Teter told Reuters. "That's just so wrong."
Before the photo shoot last June Teter had just gone swimming at a beach and was annoyed when she had to change clothes without revealing too much.
"I had just gone swimming and was trying to change from my T-shirt to my sweatshirt without exposing anything. It was such a process. I was just so freaked out.
"I was pissed off at the system. It wasn't right. Guys with bigger boobs than I have walk around and they're fine. If women were to do that they could go to jail. That's totally wrong."
Teter admits she has had "a little bit" of grief from people thinking she is being exploited and "turning the Olympics into some kind of sexual thing."
"I have good answers for those people," she said. "They usually see my point of view. The pictures are a little risque but they're totally not sexual.
"Bodies are beautiful and should be appreciated. People have different points of view that need a little bit of light shined on to."
U.S. ski racer Lindsey Vonn appeared in the same issue and received the same kind of remarks as Teter, who opens her bid for a second straight Olympic gold on Thursday at the Vancouver Games.
"I'm OK with nudity," Teter said. "I'm OK with people being naked. There shouldn't be a huge deal made about it. People in tribal nations walk around naked and they don't have bad things going on sexually because it's OK.
"It's not suppressed. People don't freak out like they do in the U.S."
She made the remarks at a pre-Olympics event for Samsung Mobile Explorers, a group of contest winners brought to Vancouver to report on the Games and raise awareness for Teter's charity foundation (www.hannahsgold.com)
Teter wavered when asked if her next photo shoot -- if there was one -- would involve nudity.
"I'm not sure if I'd go there all the way," she said. "Sports Illustrated may be the only one I'll do just because it's not my scene. But maybe in the future. I don't know.
"It's a fine line. We'll see. More people have liked my pictures than freaked out over them.
"Models work so hard to be in that magazine and for them to ask me to be in it was really cool."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)