It’s been 16 years since Kristi Yamaguchi skated into the hearts of Americans by winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Albertville, France. She is at it again, dancing into American hearts each week on the hit show Dancing with the Stars. Kristi and her equally gorgeous partner Mark Ballas have received the highest scores each week (except once) and seem set to win this year’s Dancing with the Star’s crown. It’s been 16 years since Kristi Yamaguchi skated into the hearts of Americans by winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Albertville, France. She is at it again, dancing into American hearts each week on the hit show Dancing with the Stars. Kristi and her equally gorgeous partner Mark Ballas have received the highest scores each week (except once) and seem set to win this year’s Dancing with the Star’s crown.
Although she’s an Olympic athlete, Kristi had club feet as a child and began skating as physical therapy to treat her condition. Despite the major disadvantage, Kristi overcame her disability to become the first Olympian of Asian descent to win the Gold Medal in Figure Skating (1992). That year, Kristi was on the same Olympic team as Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Despite the media attention and controversy, she still remained focused enough to win the world title.
After traveling with Stars on Ice for many years, she settled down with her professional Ice Hockey husband in North Carolina and had two daughters, Keara Kiyomi, 4 and Emma Yoshiko, 2.
Kristi takes pride in her ethnicity and will always represent the Asian community. She even made sure she took time out of her busy dancing schedule to speak with us. Read on to find out more about the classy Kristi Yamaguchi.
Click to watch Kristi receiving the Gold in 1992
ASIANCE: How did you get involve with Dancing with the Stars?
Kristi: They extended me an invitation and being a huge fan of the show, I was a little nervous to say yes, but once we figured out scheduling and the family situation and making sure the kids were going to be taken care of … ..then I thought why not? It looks like it could be a lot of fun! It would be fun to learn how to dance like that and experience something new!
ASIANCE: Who was your favorite on the show before?
Kristi: Apolo Anton Ohno. I really became a big fan after watching him and Julianne. I use to vote for them.
ASIANCE: I heard you met your husband during the 1992 Olympics. Is that true and how did that come about?
Kristi: It’s a long story. We briefly met at the Olympics in 1992. Then he played for the Vancouver Canucks in 1995. They opened a new arena called GM place (General Motors Place) up in Vancouver for their Hockey team. I was brought in for their Grand Opening as a figure skater. We got reintroduced at this event, stayed in touch and before we knew it we were kind of dating. (laughs)
ASIANCE: What is the biggest difference between dancing and skating?
Kristi: I answered this 100 times. (laughs) We’re dancing. We’re not skating. We’re not floating on edges with the feet parallel flat on the floor. There are steps. You’re using your feet, your ankles, your legs are moving differently. You’re stepping on every count of the music, so it’s a whole completely different animal.
ASIANCE: Do you like being back in the public eye again?
Kristi: Yeah it’s kind of been an adjustment again after I have been a quiet mom for the last 4 years. Jumping back into this was crazy at first but it’s fun. Everyone on the show is amazing and they make you comfortable and happy as possible. So it really has been a positive experience so far.
ASIANCE: Give 3 words to describe your partner Mark Ballas
Kristi: Talented, funny and amazing..Amazing!!
ASIANCE: Are you allowed to say who’s your favorite in the competition?
Kristi: What do you mean who’s my favorite? We are?! Just kidding! (laughs)
ASIANCE: Well I guess I should say who you need to watch out for!?
Kristi: I would say Jason Taylor and Edyta for sure.
Watch the Fab-U-Licious dance
ASIANCE: What made you start “Always Dream Foundation”?
Kristi: When I turned professional and started touring we worked a lot with “Make A Wish Foundation”. I was inspired by seeing what they do and how they help and give back to the families. I was inspired by the differences that they make. I wanted to focus my attention on something that I had more control over and could focus on things that I wanted to look at.
ASIANCE: What Asian American or Asian women do you admire?
Kristi: Carrie Ann absolutely! She’s breaking out in the entertainment industry and Michelle Wie, let’s get another athlete in there.
ASIANCE: How is Carrie Ann Inaba?
Kristi: Our only contact with them is after our performances. We don’t see them backstage at all. We don’t see them during the week at all. I’ve always looked up to her. I think what she has done in the entertainment business and the dance world is amazing. I very much admire her.
ASIANCE: You are fourth generation Asian American. Have you adopted any Japanese traditions in your household?
Kristi: I don’t know if there is one specific thing that we’ve adopted but there are certain traits in our culture that are there. Being Asian American and doing everything 100% and working hard. Just putting everything you have into something. After the war our family completely lost the language. We don’t speak Japanese.
The Finals Video
ASIANCE: What advice would you give to girls or Asian American girls who are skating and want to be Olympic skaters?
Kristi: If you have a goal work hard towards it. Overcome your obstacles. Keep focused and always dream.
ASIANCE: Are your girls getting into skating?
Kristi: Well apparently, when people ask them a question like, “Do you want to dance like mommy?” They say, “No, I’m going to be a figure skater.” So in their minds, I don’t know if they really know what that means or what it entails. I think we’ll get them on the ice. My husband and I will play around with them. Of course we want them to learn just so they know how to skate, but we’re not pushing them in that direction.
ASIANCE: Thanks Kristi, good luck!
Kristi: Thank you and tell everyone to vote for us!
For more information on Kristi and her charity please visit