JOC pledges to provide aid for Vancouver Olympic medal hopefuls

Kyodo News

The Japanese Olympic Committee on Friday decided to allocate freestyle skier Aiko Uemura, figure skater Mao Asada and speedskater Keiichiro Nagashima special funds to bolster their bids to win gold medals at next year’s Vancouver Winter Games.

Recently married Uemura, winner of the women’s moguls and dual moguls at the freestyle world championships in March, former world champion Asada and men’s 500- and 1,000-meter specialist Nagashima will each be given ¥10 million as part of a JOC project aimed at strengthening the country’s chances of winning Olympic gold medals.

It is the first time for the JOC to provide special financial assistance for individual athletes for a Winter Olympics.

Selected based on their results in the 2008-09 season, Uemura, Asada and Nagashima are at the core of the JOC’s “Symbol Athlete” sponsorship program, the program aimed at luring lucrative sponsorship deals in the runup to the Olympics, with the use of top athletes’ image rights controlled by the national Olympic body.

Athens Olympic gold-medal winning hammer thrower Koji Murofushi was among a selected group of athletes that received special financial assistance from the JOC ahead of last summer’s Beijing Games.