HOTTEST OF ASIAN AMERICA   

A T H L E T E S

Jeremy Lin JEREMY LIN
The Leader
     “Jeremy Lin stood up and said, ‘I want to win a state championship’,” recalls Palo Alto High Vikings coach Diepenbrock. Lin had taken personal responsibility for the fact that in 2004 a fractured ankle had forced him to sit out the Northern California playoffs in which his team had been eliminated.
     “This has been my goal since last year,” said Lin. “It was my fault we didn't advance. Our goal this season was we wanted to go all the way to the top, and that was a state championship.”
     As a 6-2 point guard Lin was both the sparkplug and scoring machine. In the 2006 final game against perennial California state powerhouse Mater Dei, Lin scored a crucial late-game 3-pointer followed by a final-seconds lay-in to put his team out of the Monarchs' reach.
     So what's a major talent like Lin doing at Harvard, the only team never to win the Ivy League's men's basketball title? Blame it on a mix of horribly impressive credentials compounded by someone's failure to fill out paperwork that would have snagged Lin a scholarship at a basketball powerhouse. So far Lin has been making the best of his stay on the Crimson by helping the team get off to a winning start this season. Even as a freshman he's been averaging 20 minutes per game for 3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists.


Timmy Chang TIMMY CHANG
Prince of Passes
     Fans who thrilled to the way Timmy Chang quarterbacked the University of Hawaii's Rainbow Warriors were baffled to learn that he was released by the Eagles in September of 2006 after barely eight months, most of it quarterbacking NFL-Europe's Rhein Fire. The release came within days of Chang's only NFL game, a preseason Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Chang hit 9 of 17 passes for 84 yards and one interception. That's not bad, especially when he was put in during the fourth quarter of a game in which the Eagles were trailing the Raiders 16 to 10.
     Chang's status as the all-time leading college passer with 17,072 yards, had led many to expect him to be drafted in an early round. Instead, he was written off as a “system quarterback”, suggesting that his college achievements were a product of the system set up around him instead of his virtuosity. In 2005 he was signed as a rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals but released during training camp. He was then signed by the Detroit Lions but released before the start of the regular season. When the Eagles signed him in January of 2006 only to assign him to Rhein, Chang's career seemed on the verge of early collapse.
     The NFL has been an unpleasant surprise for a quarterback whose dazzling performances under June Jones's run-and-shoot offense had only added to the status as Hawaii's top sports celebrity begun during his years at St. Louis High where he came close to setting a new national high school record for touchdowns thrown while maintaining a straight-A average.
     True believers continue to hope that Timmy Chang will show the NFL that his deft and nimble quarterbacking is up to the big time.


VANIA KING
Mighty Mite
     At only 17 and 125 pounds Vania King is the hottest young Asian American female in professional tennis. She turned pro in early July of 2006 but is already ranked 50 on the WTA Tour in singles and 51 in doubles, having won on October 15 the PTT Bangkok Open. On the way to that title she relied on her consistent returns and retrieving skills to beat Alicia Molik, Lucie Safarova, Jelena Kostanic, Meghann Shaughnessy and Tamarine Tanasugarn.
     King's success as a pro comes as no surprise to those who followed her junior career. Not only was King the top -ranked U.S. girl in the juniors circuit but qualified for the U.S. Open and made it through to the 2nd round at the age of 16. Just before turning pro she also made it into the 2nd round at Wimbledon before losing to Jelena Jankovic. She also made it into the 2nd round of the 2006 U.S. Open but had the misfortune to face top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne.
     Vania King was born into a tennis family in Monterey Park, California. Her father is her coach and her brother Phillip is a former USTA Boys' 18s champ and an All-American at Duke.

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Kevin Kim KEVIN KIM
Tennis Rock Star
     It was a bleak time for Asian American tennis. Michael Chang had retired after struggling to stay in the top 100. Alex Kim and Eric Taino never managed to crack the top 100. Enter Kevin Kim. In the fall of 2004 Kim beat Carlos Ferrero, a top-5 player, then fought his way into the third round of the 2005 Australian Open before losing a close 5-setter to Thomas Johansson. By March Kevin Kim had blasted free of the Challenger Circuit to reach No. 63 in the world.
     Since then Kim hasn't yet managed to win an ATP tournament. And he's now 28, the age when most pros begin seriously considering retirement. But Kim has declared that he's just getting started. That's a good thing. As of December of 2006 he's one of only three Asian male players on the tour, behind Lee Hyung-taik at 49 and Paradorn Srichaphan at 53. With his rock-star looks and potent forehand, the Torrance native has as good a chance as any American male other than Andy Roddick and James Blake to find his game and enjoy a turn in the spotlight before his career begins winding down.


NAOMI NARI NAM
Comeback Kid
     At the age of 21 Naomi Nari Nam has already had two careers on ice. During 2006 she and partner Themi Leftheris established themselves as one of the top ice-dancing teams in the U.S. In recent competition they took third at Skate America and second at Campbell's Cup. Not bad considering the alternative for Nam would have been to drop out of skating altogether.
     At the age of 13 Naomi Nari Nam looked to be America's newest ice darling. She placed second behind Michelle Kwan at the 1999 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and seemed poised to catapult over Sasha Cohen, Jennifer Kirk and the other "Baby Ballerinas". Instead she was stopped dead in her tracks by an unexpected stress fracture in her hip during the 2000-2001 season. After hip surgery in 2003 Nam made a valiant effort at reclaiming her place among America's ice darlings. When she failed to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Championships she knew that her career as a single skater was over.
     Naomi Nari Nam was born June 7, 1985 in Anaheim, California. Her hobbies include reading, knitting and shopping. She worked at Coffee Bean in high school. Her idols are Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi.


BRANDON WONG
Scoring Machine on Ice
     In his very first game as a Quinnnipiac University Bobcat Brandon Wong scored a hat trick in an 8-3 win over ECAC Hocky League rival Union. In his first full month Wong was tied for first place in the nation for most goals by a freshman. In eight games in November he tallied a team-high 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and was named National College Hockey Rookie of the Month as the Bobcats climbed to the top of the ECAC Hockey League.
     It was better than anyone could have expected of the recruit from Victoria, British Columbia. Not that there hadn't been indications of potential. In his final year before coming to Connecticut Wong led the British Columbia Hockey League in goals, assists, points and power play goals, having scored 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists) in 25 games. In 2005 he had done even better, scoring 61 points (29 goals, 32 assists) in 41 games. That was at the age of 18.
     Brandon Wong's offensive prowess makes him a good bet to enter the NHL before finishing out four years of college.


ED WANG
Hokies' Tight End
     As a freshman Ed Wang hasn't yet played in a regular season game for 14th-ranked Virginia Tech, but the tight end one of the Hokies's top young prospects. It's a matter of time before he has progressed far enough in the Hokies strength and conditioning program to merit playing time. Wang has already moved up to a 400-pound back squat and a 314-pound push jerk and even caught two passes for 28 yards in the Hokies' first spring scrimmage.
     Wang's record at Stone Bridge High suggests that he has the potential to become a star with at Virginia Tech. He was a three-year starter named the Gatorade State Player of the Year. In his senior year he caught 30 passes to help his team to a 11-1 record. He was named the No. 7 player in the state by the Roanoke Times and the No. 14 tight end in the nation by rivals.com.
     Ed Wang was born March 12, 1987 in Fairfax, Virginia. Both parents were members of the Chinese Olympic team in the 1970s. Wang is majoring in communications.


RENA INOUE
Romance on Ice
     At 4-foot-11, Rena Inoue is tiny even by the standards of pairs skating. Thanks in part to her small size, together with her elegant athleticism, at the 2006 Skate Canada she and partner John Baldwin became the first pair ever to land a throw triple axel in an ISU Grand Prix event. They also claimed silver at the event to go with the gold they snared at Skate America a week earlier. Two weeks later they took another silver at the Trophee Bompard in Paris. Along with their two U.S. championships, the wins put the couple at the apex of American pairs skating.
     When she isn't skating, Rena Inoue works as a clerk in her new home town of Santa Monica, California. She became a U.S. citizen in 2005 after immigrating from Japan where she was twice an Olympian in both single and pairs skating. As a singles skater he best result was 5th place at the 1994 Junior Worlds. She was born in Nishinomiya.


In Kyung Kim IN KYUNG KIM
Golf's Next Prodigy
     When 18-year-old In-Kyung Kim co-finished first in the LPGA Tour's Q-School tournament with a final score of 13-under 347, she immediately turned pro. Why not? The top 15 players earned exempt status on the LPGA tour for 2007, virtually assuring a solid start to a promising pro career.
     “I am happy now,” Kim bubbled after her win. “I wasn't before. I played with everything today. I had good shots. I had a few mistakes, but otherwise, I played great! I just want to play tournaments. This year, I didn't play many tournaments.”
     In the few tournaments she did play, Kim was unbeatable. She won the Duramed Futures Tour's qualifying tournament. She was also the 2005 U.S. Girls' Junior champion.