Feb 16 2014, 12:12pm CST | by Forbes
To make some big-time money from endorsements Maria Sharapova had to bolt Russia for the U.S. In America the tennis great became the highest-earning female athlete in the world. Sharapova was born in the Soviet Union and moved to the U.S. in 1994 when she was seven. Last year she earned $29 million, including $23 million from sponsors like Nike and Head.
Sochi gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya will have to do the same thing if the 15-year-old phenom wants to cash in on her enormous talent and charisma. She would probably not be able to earn as much from endorsements as a tennis player, but could certainly earn at least $5 million a year during her prime, or roughly $50 million.
Consider that a figure skater from tiny South Korea, the 2010 Olympic champion in ladies’ singles Kim Yuna, was the sixth-highest earning female athlete in the world last year, pulling in $14 million. Last winter she captured her second World Championship and will be battling Lipnitskaya for gold next week in the singles. Kim has lots of big sponsors, including Samsung Electronics, Korean Air and KB Financial.
But athletes who live in autocratic Russia make squat. Despite living in Florida, Sharapova carried the flag for Russia in the 2012 Olympics, winning a silver medal, and she was given the honor of bringing the torch into the stadium during the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Games. Lipnitskaya has at least two more Olympics in her competing for Russia if she wants, but if she would like to pursue endorsement gold, she’d better do it from overseas.
Source: Forbes Business
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