Asian athletes turned celebs

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: These big fish have shown that they have more than just sporting prowess in their arsenal

Asian athletes turned celebs
01 Sep 2016

Asian athletes turned celebs

A sporting career never really lasts forever – many promising athletes have been sidelined prematurely after one-too-many critical injuries. For these athletes, who’ve already gotten a taste of the addictive fame and fortune that comes with sporting glory, it’s only natural for them to set their sights on an exceedingly similar industry – the entertainment industry.

Sprinter Timothee Yap, however, is a lucky lad who’s getting to enjoy the best of both worlds. Not long after participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics’ 100m dash (yes, the Olympics) where he shared the track with his idol Usain Bolt (yes, the Usain Bolt), the 22-year-old signed a two-year contract with Dasmond Koh’s talent agency NoonTalk Media, which also manages Aloysius Pang and Xu Bin.

The purpose of the rather unusual collaboration, as Timothee shared with us in an interview, was “to raise the profile of sportsmen like myself in Singapore.” Sure enough, he was soon making public appearances alongside his NoonTalk brothers, being the face for various sponsorship deals, and he even made his acting debut.

And in a leading role, no less! Timothee can now be seen in Toggle Originals series 2589 Days Apart, in which he plays Zheng De Lu, a sprinter who eventually finds himself increasingly drawn towards his school counsellor Wu Wei Wei (played by Felicia Chin). Timothee auditioned for the role after hearing about it from Dasmond, and believes he nabbed the role because of his character, like him in real life, is involved in track and field.

So what’s next for the multi-hyphenate (he’s also a law student at the National University of Singapore)? Unfortunately for fans of his acting endeavour, it could be a while before we see Timothee on screens again, as he’s told us that sports and studies come first for now, with his next goal being to take part in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia. Jia you!

Ahead, we look behind us to unearth more Asian athletes turned celebrities like Timothee – from Chinese Olympic gold medallist gymnast-turned-actress Liu Xuan to Hong Kong National Youth Team fencer-turned-idol Jackson Wang.

2589 Days Apart is now available on Toggle-It-First. New episodes will be available for free every Monday and Friday from May 15 - 29. For more information, visit the microsite here.

WATCH: What is Timothee Yap’s ideal type? 

Photos: Toggle, Timothee Yap/Instagram

Highlight’s Doojoon
15 May 2017

Highlight’s Doojoon

Greatest sporting glory: Played in the National Soccer Team 2

Highlight’s Doojoon hung up his spikes and tried out for showbiz in middle school after watching a BIGBANG documentary after soccer practice. While he was eliminated from the JYP reality programme where the members of 2AM and 2PM were chosen, he eventually realised his dream when he debuted with B2ST, which is now known as Highlight.

Photos: Cube Entertainment

Alex Fong
01 Sep 2016

Alex Fong

Greatest sporting glory: Current Hong Kong record holder for the 200m backstroke and 400m individual medley

Some people just seem to have it all. Alex Fong first made waves at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he represented Hong Kong and broke two national records while at it. After catching the eye of entertainment executives, Alex made his debut as a singer-actor the next year, and never really looked back.

The 37-year-old then had a string of award-winning duets with Hong Kong singer-actress Stephy Tang in the early 2000s. The duo then entered a 10-year relationship, often starring alongside each other in movies, before breaking up early this year. These days, Alex is more known for his work as an actor and his last album released dates back to 2007.

After School’s UEE
15 May 2017

After School’s UEE

Greatest sporting glory: Participated in the Korean National Sports Festival – when she was in high school

This former competitive swimmer once competed in the prestigious Korean National Sports Festival, an annual event where athletes from all over South Korea compete in a variety of sports. She put her swimming prowess to good use in drama Hogu’s Love, where she played a competitive swimmer. Another notable former swimming star is actor Sung Hoon, who was part of the national swim team.

Photos: tvN, Pledis Entertainment

Paige Chua
01 Sep 2016

Paige Chua

Greatest sporting glory: Singapore netball youth team player

Statuesque Paige was a member of Singapore’s netball youth team when she was younger and got her first big break into the entertainment industry as a model. Fast forward to 13 years later, and Paige is now an established actress, and a three-time winner of the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes award at the local Star Awards. The former netball player is still active on the court – albeit playing the sport for leisure reasons.

Song Joong Ki
01 Sep 2016

Song Joong Ki

Greatest sporting glory: Represented his hometown, Daejeon, in Korea’s National Games three times as a short track speed skater

Looks can indeed be deceiving. Baby-faced Joong Ki was once an award-winning short track speed skater in his youth. Sadly, he had to give up his skating career due to an injury in high school. A loss for the skating world, no doubt, but a huge boon for the acting industry. With an array of notable drama, film and variety appearances under him, the 31-year-old actor is now the face of the Hallyu wave. Descendants of the Sun marathon, anyone?

CNBLUE’s Jonghyun
15 May 2017

CNBLUE’s Jonghyun

Greatest sporting glory: Came out tops in the 42nd Busan Metropolitan City Judo Championship

He may be mesmerising his fans with his smooth vocals these days, but Jonghyun kicked butt – literally – back in high school, where he was a judo athlete. He ranked first among the other athletes in a contest in his hometown, but turned his attentions to music shortly after. The rest, as they say, is history.

Photos: FNC Entertainment

Hu Bing
01 Sep 2016

Hu Bing

Greatest sporting glory: Won the men’s single scull event at the Chinese National Rowing Championships at the age of 16

A bright career as a champion rower seemed to be the path ahead for Hu Bing at first. However, a back injury in 1990 put him out of action, causing him to set his sights on the modelling industry instead.  Now, this multi-hyphenate, who dabbled in a variety of side projects including acting, singing, producing and more, is best known for his impeccable fashion sense.

So Ji Sub
01 Sep 2016

So Ji Sub

Greatest sporting glory: Won a bronze medal at the Korean National Games

Smouldering, heart-thumping, So Ji Sub got his broad shoulders and lean physique from years of training as a competitive swimmer in his youth. He first broke into the entertainment industry as a jeans model before transitioning to acting, where he truly shone. Other than his award-winning appearances in dramas like I’m Sorry, I Love You, Rough Cut and Master’s Sun, the avid hip-hop fan has also released several hip-hop albums, with the latest being ‘So Ganzi’ in 2015.

Chase Tan
01 Sep 2016

Chase Tan

Greatest sporting glory: Bagged a bronze medal for basketball at the 2013 SEA Games

Chase might be a relatively new face in the entertainment industry, but we’re sure that his showbiz career will soar in the future. Off-screen, Chase is kept busy with his burgeoning basketball career as well (he plays for the Singapore Slingers and even acted as a basketball player in Tay Ping Hui’s directorial debut, Meeting The Giant). We’re not sure how he manages to successfully juggle both his entertainment and sporting career at once, but kudos to him for managing to do that, and more!

WATCH:
Shane and Chase's old sports injuries flare up again

SHINee’s Key: Water skiing
15 May 2017

SHINee’s Key: Water skiing

Greatest sporting glory: Came out tops in water skiing (wakeboarding category) nationally

While training to debut, Key was ranked first nationally for water skiing (wakeboarding category) in 2006 and 2007. SHINee debuted in 2008, which meant that he juggled both the intense training for the sport and his upcoming idol life at the same time – and that’s something you can’t manage without both talent and extremely good time management skills.

Photos: S.M. Entertainment, Mnet

Benjamin and Narelle Kheng from The Sam Willows
01 Sep 2016

Benjamin and Narelle Kheng from The Sam Willows

Greatest sporting glory: Both siblings were competitive swimmers in their youth

Both Benjamin and Narelle were competitive swimmers in their youth, with Benjamin even attending Olympic gold medallist, Joseph’s alma mater, Anglo-Chinese School. While Benjamin is a good five years older than Joseph, we wonder, if we might have just missed out on yet another swimming prodigy. In any case, the local music scene certainly profited off the siblings’ decision to turn to music instead. Arguably the most well-known local indie-turned-mainstream band today, The Sam Willows look set to take over airwaves worldwide.

Jackson Wang
01 Sep 2016

Jackson Wang

Greatest sporting glory: Won first place at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championship

With an Olympic gymnast as a mother, there was no doubt that Jackson was a natural athlete from the start. However, the bright-eyed 23-year-old gave up his blooming career as a national fencer to pursue his other dream – singing. Now a member of the internationally popular Kpop boyband, GOT7, we think (judging from the reception they received during their recent visit to Singapore), that Jackson might have just made the right decision.

Liu Xuan
01 Sep 2016

Liu Xuan

Greatest sporting glory: Won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for the Balance Beam (Gymnastics) event

Once hailed as China’s greatest gymnast, Liu Xuan hung up her leotard in 2000 and turned to Hong Kong for a lucrative career as an actress-singer. The 37-year-old, who has released three albums and starred in a number of films and dramas so far, tied the knot with musician Wang Tao in 2013.

SPECIAL MENTION: Song Hye Gyo
15 May 2017

SPECIAL MENTION: Song Hye Gyo

Like fellow actress Han Chae Young, Song Hye Gyo trained to be a professional figure skater prior to becoming a celebrity. She showed off her skating chops in Full House, where viewers were amazed by her grace on ice. Her junior high homeroom teacher appeared on TV to share that Song Hye Gyo’s talent for the sport was such that she believed that she would have become as great as Olympic champion Kim Yuna.

Photos: SBS, J.ESTINA

Nicky Wu
01 Sep 2016

Nicky Wu

Greatest sporting glory: Taekwondo and Judo black belt holder

It is often said that Nicky might have been a member of Taiwan’s national Taekwondo team if he had not decided to join the entertainment industry. While the national team may have lost a potential medallist for their team, the entertainment industry gained a hardworking, multi-talented artiste to call their own. From his debut as a member of the pop trio Little Tigers, to the dashing Fourth Prince in the hit drama, Scarlet Heart, Nicky is all but a household name today.

Related:
No sweat over kissing Felicia Chin: Timothee Yap
2016 Rio Olympics
The unintentional stars of Rio Olympics

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