Kim and Asada – Asia’s golden girls


They are the golden girls of Asian sport.


But no-one will be banking more on South Korean starlet Kim Yu-Na and Japanese rival Mao Asada in Vancouver than their sponsors.

Not since Peggy Fleming in 1968 has there been a bigger Olympic gold-medal favourite than Kim.

She is the reigning world champion while Asada held the title in 2008.

The pair earn millions of dollars in sponsorship.

In South Korea, where Kim needs two bodyguards, she is dubbed ‘Queen Yu-Na’.

Forbes magazine listed her as the joint top earner of the Games along with US snowboarder Shaun White after she banked nearly eight million dollars from sponsors.

Her face is on billboards, magazines and television screens throughout the country, while a compilation of her skating music, “Fairy on the Ice – the Classics Album”, has been one of the top-selling CDs in South Korea.

Her “Yu-Na Haptic” style phone, launched last May by Samsung, broke a company record when sales passed the one million mark in seven months.

The hysteria that follows her every movement was seen in Vancouver when 300-plus journalists greeted the teenager on her arrival from her Toronto base ahead of her Olympic bid.

The pressure on 19-year-old Kim’s shoulders going into her first Olympics is huge, and she has opted to stay in a hotel rather than the Olympic Village in order to stay clear of distractions.

But she admits that she finds dealing with the media easier now.

“I’m already used to the media,” she said. “If I can deal with the burden and anxiety well, I won’t be embarrassed when I’m faced with other hardships in my life.

“So it’s a kind of nice experience for being strong.”

Her coach Brian Orser has no doubts over Kim’s popularity.

“It’s like travelling around with Princess Diana. She is very gracious to her fans. They love her, they embrace her,” said Orser.

“The audience seems to be captivated by her style, her grace and her athleticism. She is beautiful and she is a fierce competitor.”

Equally a star in her native Japan, Asada, also 19, can approach her first Games more calmly.

Asada appears in television commericals for seven companies, earning an estimated four million dollars a year.

She headlined her own exhibition show, called “The Ice,” in the summer of 2008, with her sister Mai, also a figure skater, while her skating music was compiled on two albums by EMI Music Japan.

She can however draw from the experience of more mature teammate Miki Ando, who had her troubles dealing with the fame and media spotlight as a teenager.

“Before it was very hard for me. I didn’t want to be a famous person. I wanted to be a normal girl,” explained 2007 world champion Ando.

“The paparazzi would be waiting for me in front of my home all my time. I was just 18 years. But now I am a bit older and I’m used to it and I know how to talk with them.”

Hundreds of millions of fans are expected to tune in throughout Asia as the long time rivals clash starting Tuesday for the biggest prize in figure skating.

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