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Asian Ice Queens

Friends or foe? Are two top Olympic athletes really engaged in fierce rivalry?

The 2010 Winter Olympics have jet-propelled two modern ‘royals’ into the international celebrity spotlight: Recently crowned Olympic women’s figure skating gold-medalist Kim ‘Queen Yu-na’ and silver-medalist Mao Asada, who reigns as ‘Princess Mao’ in her native Japan.

Despite the fact that both 19-year-olds already possess the fierce determination, raw talent, charisma and looks to attract wide attention, it seems that the press still loves to pit these two against each other—calling them rivals and drawing out every similarity and difference they can find to make for a story. Or could there actually be some truth in this drama?

A Reuters piece from just a couple of days ago had me wondering. It claims with its headline that: ‘Ambitious Asada guns for Kim’s world record.’ And, according to it, using phrases like ‘beat her’ and ‘my biggest weapon (referring to the triple axel, which Kim has yet to master in major competition),’ Asada is now determined to break the record set by Yu-na in Vancouver. However, we might keep in mind that Asada’s original words were spoken to Japanese-language sports paper Nikkan Sports—and could have been sensationalized in translation.

Asian-Ice-Queens-2Meanwhile, on the other end, a short video titled ‘Mao Asada and Yu Na Kim Montage “Rivals but Friends,”’ is gaining attention with already over 125,000 views on YouTube alone. The (rather cheesy) four-minute sequence also features still-images including not only a photo of the Kim and Asada posing with their arms around each others’ shoulders, but one of them sitting side-by-side in an airplane and another of the two engaging in a series of goofy poses together for a session of the popular Japanese pastime—purikura, (or sticker photos).

With this evidence, I’d guess that a lot of the rivalry is just healthy competition or media puffery and that these two probably have a lot of reasons to be friends.