Kerri Walsh Jennings Is 'Happy and Relieved' at Reactions to Her Nude Photos

07/09/2013 at 07:30 PM EDT

Kerri Walsh Jennings Shares Reaction to Nude Photos
Kerri Walsh Jennings
Richard Phibbs
Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings admits she was concerned about the public reaction to her nude photos – taken while she was pregnant and then just nine weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Scout Margery.

"I am so happy and relieved that people are receiving my pictures so warmly," the beach volleyball competitor tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I didn't realize how vulnerable I'd feel upon the release of the photos … I am happy and I am proud."

The before-and-after photos appear side-by-side in ESPN The Magazine's 5th annual Body Issue which features nude photos of both male and female athletes from a wide range of sports.

"I can't wait to see a copy of the magazine!" Walsh Jennings, 34, says. "I respect the Body Issue very much and look forward to enjoying the pictures throughout."

The Olympian adds that she received respect and support during the photo shoot.

"The team tasked to glam me up did such a wonderful job throughout each shoot," she says. "I felt I was amongst friends and ultimate professionals who worked together to create something beautiful."

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