No, Kristi Yamaguchi is not a victim of Japan bashing
An article in the March 9 issue of Business Week suggested that the economic tensions between the U.S. and Japan, and the resultant wave of Japan bashing, had claimed an innocent victim: U.S. Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. TO MARKETERS, KRISTI YAMAGUCHI ISN'T AS GOOD AS GOLD was the Business Week headline. "Are they shying away because of her Japanese surname and looks?" the story asked.
In the article, Yamaguchi's business representative, Kevin Albrecht of International Management Group, was quoted as saying, "Kristi has no offers yet." But according to Albrecht, who talked to Business Week by telephone the day he returned from the Games in Albertville, he completed that sentence by saying, "but I've only been off the plane an hour."
Business Week stands by its story, but according to Albrecht, "It was never our intention to do anything until after the world championships [March 25-29 in Oakland]. I can assure you she's in tremendous demand. She's been getting, on average, 65 phone calls a day from people and companies with various requests, and I've personally been in touch with more than 200 companies. Her Japanese heritage has never come up." (Yamaguchi's paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Japan, and both of her parents we're born in the U.S.)
Albrecht says that after the world championships, Yamaguchi will have "several" offers from "blue-chip U.S. corporations" to choose from. "It will put figure skating in the big leagues of sports marketing," he says. "Right now Kristi's the Number One female sports property in the U.S."
Olympian Ray LeBlanc is the toast of Indianapolis
Since he and Team USA lost the bronze medal game in hockey to the Czechs at the Winter Olympics on Feb. 22, goaltender Ray LeBlanc has been on a winning streak.
Through the end of last week, the Indianapolis Ice of the minor league International Hockey League were 7-0 with LeBlanc in goal since his return from Albertville. One of those seven wins came on March 8, when the Ice defeated the Peoria Rivermen 3-2 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis. LeBlanc's parents were there and so were his inlaws; his wife, Julie; and their two children, three-year-old Ray Jr. and 13-month-old Mary Hope. During pregame ceremonies honoring LeBlanc, Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith declared March 8 Ray LeBlanc Day, and Indiana Lieutenant Governor Frank O'Bannon named LeBlanc a Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor. And Don Moreau, executive director of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, presented LeBlanc with a rosebush. It seems that when LeBlanc worked on the grounds crew at the Fairgrounds for two weeks during the 1989-90 season, his first with the Ice, one of his duties was planting rosebushes.
The day after Ray LeBlanc Day, Indiana's newest Sagamore was called up by the Ice's parent club, the Chicago Blackhawks. With the NHL adding teams in Ottawa and Tampa Bay next year, LeBlanc has a good chance of being chosen in the league's expansion draft after the season, but to be eligible for that draft, a goalie must have played at least 60 minutes for an NHL team. Chicago has Ed Belfour, last year's Rookie of the Year, firmly ensconced in the net, but when Belfour left the Blackhawks on March 9 to attend the birth of his daughter, LeBlanc was given his chance against the hapless San Jose Sharks.