OMAHA, Neb.- Twenty-one years after winning the Olympic gold medal in Albertville, Kristi Yamaguchi was back around the rink, watching the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with as elegant a presence as ever.
Now at 41, Yamaguchi lives in the Bay Area with her husband, former Stanley Cup champion Bret Hedican, and their two daughters, Keara and Emma.
“I have two daughters and just one skates- the younger one (Emma)," Yamaguchi said Friday evening. "At this point it’s very recreational- she’s seven and it’s been about a year- and she loves it when she gets on the ice. Her coach is Rudy Galindo, who is being inducted into the U.S. Hall of Fame. It’s a joy for me to watch them work together. As long as she’s having fun, I already see her getting some joy out of it. She has the understanding she has to practice something in order to get better, and that’s important as a young child to learn from a sport, she can get some of those life lessons.”
In addition to winning the gold medal in the Olympics, Yamaguchi won two World Championships in 1991 and 1992, the U.S. title in 1992, and two National pairs gold medals with Rudy Galindo, of whom she mentioned was inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday night, in 1989 and 1990, after winning the World junior title in 1988.
“She kind of understands that Mommy competed at a high level , but I’m still Mom,” Yamaguchi said of her daughter. “It’s hard for her to listen to me, and she does say ‘That’s not what Rudy said!’ When you do see some of these girls out there, it’s incredible what they are doing out there at such a young age.”
She is also currently working on her third children’s book, following the success of her first two books “Dream Big, Little Pig!” and “It’s A Big World, Little Pig.”
“I think having two young kids in that picture book age range and knowing how important reading is helps,” she said.
With no American female on the podium at Worlds since Kimmie Meissner and Sasha Cohen took gold and bronze at Calgary in 2006, Yamaguchi is optimistic about that changing this year in London, Ontario.
“I think it’s a matter of gaining consistency again,” she said. “It’s nice to see Ashley (Wagner) come out strong at the beginnigg of the year and to make it work on the international scene. I hope she finishes strong here and goes on to Worlds, and gets the U.S. on the podium once again. I think the potential is there. Hopefully, these younger skaters find ways to improve and get some consistency from one competition to the next and build from there.”