Steph Vs. Steph For Australia’s Hottest Female Athlete

As reported by David Riccio for the Daily Telegraph.

You decide. Stephanie Rice or Stephanie Gilmore? Photos courtesy News.com.Au and ASP Kirstin/Covered Images

They are the golden girls of the water, but this is a battle that can only be won on land.

World surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore is set to challenge dual Olympic swimming gold medallist Stephanie Rice as Australia’s hottest female athlete.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that over the next 10 years, Gilmore can earn close to $6 million.

Gallery: Steph Rice mega gallery from Beijing

Gallery: Stephanie Rice is swimmer of the year.

Not bad for a sandy-haired 20-year-old whose lure into surfing was a $100 wetsuit.

“As far as women in Australian sport go, she’s as bankable as Stephanie Rice … if not more,” Gilmore’s Rip Curl team manager Gary Dunne said.

After signing her first million-dollar deal when still at school, Gilmore owns an exclusive apartment on the Gold Coast and has graced magazine covers across the globe. With career earnings just below $217,000, Gilmore’s impact on the waves is dwarfed by her success on the land.

At every airport stop on the Women’s World Tour, keys to a $60,000 Ford Territory await her.

Lucrative sponsorship and endorsement deals with Ford, Rip Curl, Sanitarium Up and Go and popular sunscreen Alba have paved a golden path.

Penning a $1 million five-year incentive-laden deal with major sponsor Rip Curl in 2005, Gilmore’s second world title victory at Sunset Beach a fortnight ago triggered a five-figure bonus.

“We don’t mind signing the checks if Steph keeps winning,” head of Rip Curl marketing Neil Ridgeway said.

Gilmore, who sponsors two World Vision kids from Ethiopia, said her ever-increasing wealth has never been her motive.

“It’s my job, it’s my hobby, it’s my escape - it’s everything rolled into one,” Gilmore said of surfing.

“Whether someone is paying me, I’m still going to be out there enjoying the ocean and riding waves. Stephanie Rice is an incredible athlete, she’s a beautiful girl and it’s great to see her grabbing all the opportunities that have come her way.

“It’s good for her image and I look to her for inspiration, too.

“But to my friends, even if I’m a world champ, I’m still just Steph and a good friend to hang out with. It’s just a tag against my name really.”

Ridgeway believes Gilmore can use that tag to great effect. “She has the potential to earn what she wants,” he said.

“She’s 20 years old and you think of Kelly Slater, who’s 36 - Steph has effectively got 16 years left in the sport and she’s already won 10 WCT events in her first two years, which is a third of Kelly’s record in all his time in the sport.”

Gilmore’s success has helped her close the gap on Rice as Australia’s most marketable female star.

However, the Olympic swimming champion’s commercial appeal continues to soar, with Rice’s earnings well into the millions.

A two-year deal with Channel 7 - estimated at $700,000 - sits alongside lucrative deals with Davenport underwear, Speedo and Telstra. Ahead of next year’s Australian championships in March, Rice will launch a partnership with SunRice.

For the full article head to The Sunday Telegraph.