Shaun White, the top U.S. snowboarder, and South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na both earned $8 million last year, leading all athletes for the Winter games, according to Forbes magazine. The list excluded all salaried professional athletes, including players from the National Hockey League.
White, known to many as "The Flying Tomato" because of his long red hair, is a favorite to repeat as a gold medalist at the Winter Games in Vancouver this month. Among his sponsors are such companies as Target Corp, Red Bull, Oakley and AT&T Inc.
Kim, the reigning world champion and known as "Queen Yu-na," is South Korea's hope for its first figure skating gold medal. The 19-year-old's sponsors include Hyundai Motor Co, Procter & Gamble Co and Nike Inc. Forbes previously named her the most powerful celebrity in South Korea for 2009.
Olympic athletes rely more on corporate backers for their earnings than winnings from competition, but the recent downturn has made it harder to turn gold medals into lucrative sponsorship deals, the magazine said.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)