With the 2014 Winter Olympics already underway in Sochi, I figured I would highlight some of the top athletes from Asia in the various sports and their standing in Olympic competition.
The two most prominent athletes in this sport have to be Kim Yu-Na of South Korea and Asada Mao of Japan. Their rivalry is interpreted as a larger metaphor of the tensions and hostility between the two nations, just played out in more theatrical style and with triple loops.
Kim Yu-Na is called “Queen Yuna” in her home country and she is worshipped accordingly. Any athlete who is able to gain prominence on the world stage is placed on a pedestal and idolized in South Korea, and Yu-Na is no exception. She was under a tremendous amount of pressure going into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but both her short and long program were transcendent and she took home the gold medal with a world record score of 228.56.
Asada Mao is not someone to be taken lightly either. She is one of the only female skater who uses the triple axel in her routines. She won the silver medal in Vancouver and since both she and Kim are set to retire after the games, the ladies’ competition will be the one to watch.
On the men’s side, Yuzuru Hanyu is expected to perform very well and is a favorite to medal. At only 19 years of age, his career is just getting started and he could very well become a formidable competitor in the years to come. He makes quadruple jumps look effortless.
The Philippines haven’t sent an athlete to the Winter Olympics in 16 years. Now, 22-year-old Michael Christian Martinez is breaking that dry spell. He’s only one of two athletes from Southeast Asia competing in the Olympics this year.
South Korea again brings some impressive athletes to the Winter Olympics in this sport. Mo Tae-Bum won the gold in the 500m race in 2010 and wants to take home the gold in the 1000m in Sochi.
Lee Sang-Hwa won the gold in the women’s 500m in Vancouver and hopes to repeat that accomplishment in Sochi. She broke four world records in 2013, so she’s a favorite in both the 500m and 1000m.
Due to a corruption scandal, India’s athletes had to march under the Olympic Committee banner as India was officially barred from competition. Their premier athlete is Shiva Keshavan, who set a new record in the 2012 Asia Cup. He raised his own funds and built his own luge with the help of engineers in his garage. He also practices on wheels on steep Himalayan roads.
Skiing In All Its Various Forms
Women’s ski jump is making its Olympic debut in Sochi (about fucking time!) One of the top competitors is Japan’s Sara Takanashi who is in the top three in the world.
This is only Pakistan’s second Winter Olympics and their top athlete is alpine skier Mir Nawaz, who won Pakistan’s first ever medals in the 2011 South Asian Winter Games.
Finally, in an example of true Olympic spirit that isn’t sponsored by Visa or Coke, Dachhiri Sherpa of Nepal is competing in cross-country skiing (which, as I’m writing this, is taking place on my television). He expects to place last and doesn’t care about a medal. He’s 44 years old and only started skiing at age 33 when Dutch tourists encouraged him to give it a try.
The placing is not important if I can teach young people in Nepal about the Olympic spirit. This spirit is in my heart.
This will be his final Olympics as he told reporters that he needs to find the next young talent.