Athlete, artist, wife, mother, philanthropist-in each of these things Kristi Yamaguchi embodies the word champion. Her motto is "Always Dream," and Kristi's accomplishments prove that dreams can come true with hard work and dedication. Her achievements-on the ice, in her personal life and in the realm of community service-are many, all of which prove her consistent commitment to excellence.
"As a competitor, even as a young skater coming up, I always wanted to do as much or more than what my competitors were doing. I knew that was the only way for me to be competitive and possibly beat them," Kristi recalls. "In addition to the technical, I was also inspired to focus on my artistic side, because I thought that would be a way to differentiate myself from the other skaters."
Following her victories at the 1992 Winter Olympics and World Championships, Kristi embarked on a successful professional career that went non-stop for more than a decade. During the years 1992-2002, Kristi toured with Stars on Ice, won numerous professional competitions, frequently appeared on television specials and collaborated with several choreographers to create diverse programs. "A lot of us on the Stars on Ice tour took pride in trying to stay innovative and bring something new to the ice every year. Pushing the envelope helped keep things fresh." In 2003, she premiered her own annual TV special. This past year Kristi Yamaguchi's Friends and Family aired on NBC for the fifth straight year.
Beginning in 1992, Kristi became a highly sought after corporate spokeswoman, sustaining long-term relationships with Celanese Acetate and Mervyn's Department Stores. Other corporate endorsements included the famous "Milk Mustache" campaign, Smart Ones and the Platinum Council. Kristi is currently working with Kellogg's, OPI (nail care) and is promoting America Lung Association's "Faces of Influenza" campaign. She and husband Bret Hedican were featured in a campaign for General Electric. They recently appeared in public service announcements for Be Active North Carolina. Kristi also authored two books, Figure Skating for Dummies and Kristi Yamaguchi, Always Dream. She served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to promoting the Games, she also performed in both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. She was a spokesperson for National Skating Month, which takes place each January. Kristi worked with U.S. Figure Skating, its member clubs and Basic Skills programs to encourage people to learn to skate for fun and fitness.
Throughout her career, Kristi has received numerous awards and accolades. In 1996 she was named Skater of the Year by American Skating World magazine. She appeared on International Figure Skating magazine's annual "25 Most Influential Names in Figure Skating" list several times and was named the Most Influential person in the sport for the 2001-02 season. She was named to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1998 and the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1999. On Dec. 8, 2005, she was inducted into the USOC Olympic Hall of Fame. In January 2006, she joined all her fellow American Olympic gold medalists for a special tribute at the 2006 U.S. Championships in St. Louis. Later that year, Kristi was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame. In February 2008, Kristi received the prestigious Thurman Munson Award, acknowledging excellence in competition and philanthropic work within the community.
One of her lasting legacies will be her Always Dream Foundation, founded in 1996. The foundation has been an active fundraiser and supporter of children's charities in the San Francisco Bay Area, including annual Christmas toy drives. They organized two large-scale events in Hawaii, where able bodied and disabled children competed side by side in an Olympic-themed camp. The major project currently on their schedule is the development of a playground for children of all abilities.
"It's a playground where children with disabilities and without disabilities can play together," Kristi explains. "It's completely wheelchair accessible, yet it's a regular playground. We found the site and we're working with the city of Fremont (Calif., where she grew up and her parents still live). It's been an idea that I've had for a few years and it's finally under construction."
In 2006, Kristi's husband, Bret, achieved his greatest dream in sports when his NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, won the Stanley Cup. "To be along for that ride, to be able to experience his dream with him was amazing," she says. "I knew how much it meant to him."
Kristi Yamaguchi's victory on the sixth season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars (the first woman since season one to claim the trophy) is another achievement in a career marked with golden success. She and professional dance partner Mark Ballas received perfect marks for their final three dances-testament to not only her talent but also her tireless preparation and commitment to excellence.
Kristi's family is now her first and foremost priority. She thoroughly enjoys being on the ice, but nothing compares to being with her daughters. "I can't say I would have done it any other way," she says. "I definitely feel blessed to have Keara and Emma in my life. My family means everything to me."
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