Kristine Tsuya "Kristi" Yamaguchi- Hedican (born July 12 1971) is an American figure skater and the 1992 Olympic Champion in women's singles. Yamaguchi also won two World Figure Skating Championships in 1991 and 1992 and a U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1992. She won one junior world title in 1988 and two national titles in 1989 and 1990 as a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo. In December 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Yamaguchi was a local commentator on figure skating for San Francisco-area TV station KNTV (NBC 11) during the 2006 Winter Olympics.
On May 20, 2008, Yamaguchi became the celebrity champion in the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars with pro dance partner Mark Ballas, defeating finalist couple Jason Taylor and Edyta Śliwińska. The judges commented that she was the most consistent competitor of any dancer in any season of the show. According to the host of the show, she had the highest scores of any competitor in the show's history.
A third-generation Japanese American, Kristi Yamaguchi was born on July 12
, to Jim Yamaguchi, a dentist
, and Carole Doi, a medical secretary, who is of Japanese and Filipino descent. Kristi's grandparents were sent to an internment camp
during World War II
, where her mother was born. Kristi and her siblings, Brett and Lori, grew up in Fremont, California
, where Kristi attended Mission San Jose High School
her freshman year and transferred to Willow Glen High School
in San Jose, California
, where she graduated. Yamaguchi began skating as a child, as physical therapy for her club feet
With Rudy Galindo
she won the junior title at the U.S. championships in 1986. Two years later, Yamaguchi won the singles and, with Galindo, the pairs titles at the 1988 World Junior Pair Championships
; Galindo had won the 1987 World Junior Championship in singles. In 1989
Yamaguchi and Galindo won the senior U.S. championships
pairs title and won again in 1990
As a pairs team, Yamaguchi and Galindo were unusual in that they were both accomplished singles skaters, which allowed them to consistently perform difficult elements like side by side Triple Flip jumps, which are still more difficult than side by side jumps performed by current top international pairs teams. They also jumped and spun in opposite directions, Yamaguchi counter-clockwise, and Galindo clockwise, which gave them an unusual look on the ice. In 1990, Yamaguchi decided to focus solely on singles. Galindo went on to have a successful singles career as well, winning the 1996 U.S. championships and the 1996 World bronze medal.
In 1991, Yamaguchi moved to Edmonton
to train with coach Christy Ness. The same year Yamaguchi placed second to Tonya Harding
at the U.S. championships, her third consecutive silver medal at Nationals. The following month in Munich
, Yamaguchi won the 1991 World Championships
. That year the American ladies team, consisting of Yamaguchi, Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
, became the first and only national ladies team to have its members place first, second and third at Worlds. In 1992
, Yamaguchi won her first U.S. title and gained a spot to the 1992 Winter Olympic Games
. Joining her on the U.S. team were again Kerrigan and Harding. While competitors Harding and Japan
’s Midori Ito
were consistently landing the difficult triple axel
jump in competition, Yamaguchi instead focused on her artistry and her triple-triple combinations in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded skater. Both Harding and Ito fell on their triple axels at the Olympics (though Ito successfully landed the jump later on in her long program after missing it the first time), allowing Yamaguchi to win the gold, despite errors in her free program, including putting a hand to the ice on a triple loop
and a double salchow
instead of a planned triple. Yamaguchi went on to successfully defend her World title that same year.
Though Yamaguchi won the gold medal, she would be overshadowed in publicity and endorsements by Nancy Kerrigan who later endured the highly publicized attack staged by associates of teammate Harding. Yamaguchi never expressed any dissatisfaction with her lack of endorsements as she had one of the most successful professional skating careers since Sonja Henie
, performing with such shows as Champions on Ice
and Stars on Ice
for over ten years. Yamaguchi received endorsements deals from Wendy's
and DuraSoft Colors contact lenses, but not high-profile, multimillion-dollar deals with corporate giants like Campbells
. Some suspected that her Asian heritage may have put her at a disadvantage. Bill Imada, whose firm advises companies on marketing to Asian Americans observes that for marketers "People like Kristi Yamaguchi don't represent, at least with marketers, the wholesome all-American image".
She later received contracts with high fashion firms like Celanese Acetate, appeared in a "Got Milk" ad, and was featured on a Wheaties Box. And in 2008, she became the first woman to drop the green flag to start the Indianapolis 500.
On July 16,2008, in a Harris Poll quoted by MarketWatch
put Kristi Yamaguchi in the top 10 of US Favorite Female Sport Stars even after 16 years of her Olympic win. Fellow figure skater Michelle Kwan, who also is "Asian American" is on the list too.
Professional & Personal life
Kristi Yamaguchi turned professional after the 1992 competitive season. She toured for many years with Stars on Ice
and was also a fixture on the pro competition circuit, where she continued to be technically competitive with the younger ladies that had only recently retired. In recent years she has cut back on her skating schedule to concentrate on family life. Since July 8
she has been married to Bret Hedican
, a professional hockey
player she initially met at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Yamaguchi and Hedican, who is currently with the Carolina Hurricanes
, reside in Raleigh
, North Carolina
with their two daughters, Keara Kiyomi, born on October 1 2003
and Emma Yoshiko, born on November 17
In 1996, she established the Always Dream Foundation for children. Kristi is also the author of Always Dream, Pure Gold, and Figure Skating for Dummies. She made a fitness video with the California Raisins in 1993 called, "Hip to be Fit: The California Raisins and Kristi Yamaguchi".
As an actress, she appeared in the PBS series, Freedom: A History of Us portraying Haruko Obata, one of the first teachers of ikebana in the San Francisco Bay Area. As herself, she appeared on Everybody Loves Raymond, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Frosted Pink, and the Disney Channel original movie Go Figure. Kristi has also appeared in numerous television skating specials including the Disney special Aladdin on Ice, portraying Princess Jasmine.
Kristi Yamaguchi received the Inspiration Award at the 2008 Asian Excellence Awards. Two days after her Dancing with the Stars champion crowning, she received the 2008 Sonja Henie Award from the Professional Skaters Association. Among her other awards are the Thurman Munson Award, Women's Sports Foundation Flo Hyman Award, and the Great Sports Legends Awards. She is also a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Olympic Hall of Fame, World Skating Hall of Fame, and the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Dancing With The Stars
Yamaguchi is the 2008 season winner on ABC
's reality program Dancing with the Stars
6th season paired with Mark Ballas
. In the first three weeks, they received scores of 9, 9, and 9 for a total of 27 for their Foxtrot, Mambo, & Tango. This was the highest first and third week score in the show's history. During the fourth week, she received 10, 9, and 10 to have a total of 29, and the fifth week she received 9, 10, and 10 of having another total of 29 on the Paso Doble & Rumba. On her April 21 performance she received a perfect 30 score from the judges for her Jive. This makes her holding the 1st place spot for 6 weeks in a row, which is a new record on the show. During the seventh week, she didn't come in first. She received a 26 out of 30 for her Viennese Waltz which the judges gave her 9, 8, and 9 which gives her first 8 ever given, and her Cha-Cha-Cha was a 28 out of 30. The judges gave her 10, 8, and 10. Yamaguchi ended up with a fifty-four out of sixty which put her in second, her first time not being first on the judge's leaderboard. On the eighth week of competition, they received a 29 out of 30 as the judges scored 9, 10, and 10 for their quickstep and 26 out of 30 for their sassy samba with the judges scored them for 8,9, and 9. In the ninth week of competition, Kristi got her "top spot" back after two weeks. On the Tango, the judges gave her a 29 and on the Jive, 28. On the tenth week of the competition (finals), she received the highest score once again, breaking the tie with Mario Lopez for the most times a celebrity placed first place. On her "Mambo and Hip Hop" mesh Freestyle
to Michael Jackson's Working Day and Night, the judges gave her a perfect 30, her first since her Jive in Week 6. And on her Cha-Cha
, she received another 30. She received all but one of the perfect 30s awarded in that season (Jason Taylor
's finale dance being the other). The Cha-Cha
was danced back-to-back for the finals.