Kristi Yamaguchi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kristi Yamaguchi
Kristi Yamaguchi.png
Yamaguchi in 2016
Born (1971-07-12) July 12, 1971 (age 51)
Alma materUniversity of Alberta
Notable workDream Big, Little Pig!
Political partyRepublican
(m. 2000)
Figure skating career
Height4 ft 11.5 in (151 cm)[1][2]
Former partnerRudy Galindo
Former coachChristy Ness
Former choreographerSandra Bezic
Skating clubSt. Moritz ISC
Medal record
Representing the  United States
Ladies' figure skating
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1992 Albertville Ladies' singles
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1991 Munich Ladies' singles
Gold medal – first place 1992 Oakland Ladies' singles
World Junior Championships
Gold medal – first place 1988 Brisbane Ladies' singles
Pairs' figure skating
World Junior Championships
Gold medal – first place 1988 Brisbane Pairs
Bronze medal – third place 1987 Kitchener Pairs

Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi (born July 12, 1971) is an American former competitive figure skater and author. A former competitor in women's singles, Yamaguchi is the 1992 Olympic champion, a two-time World champion (1991 and 1992), and the 1992 U.S. champion. In 1992, she became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic competition.[3] As a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo, she is the 1988 World Junior champion and a two-time national champion (1989 and 1990).

After Yamaguchi retired from competition in 1992, she performed in shows and participated in the professional competition circuit. She won the World Professional Figure Skating Championships four times in her career (1992, 1994, 1996 and 1997). In 2005, Yamaguchi was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, and in 2008, she became the celebrity champion in the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars.

Yamaguchi is an author and has published five books. Dream Big, Little Pig!, for which she received the Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award, appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list.

Early life[edit]

Yamaguchi was born on July 12, 1971,[4] in Hayward, California,[5][3] to Jim Yamaguchi, a dentist, and Carole (née Doi), a medical secretary. Yamaguchi is Sansei (a third-generation descendant of Japanese emigrants).[6] Her paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents emigrated to the United States from Japan, originating from Wakayama Prefecture and Saga Prefecture.[7][8] Yamaguchi's grandparents were sent to an internment camp during World War II, where her mother was born. Her maternal grandfather, George A. Doi, was in the U.S. Army and fought in Germany and France during World War II during the time his family was interned at the Heart Mountain and Amache camps.[9] Research done in 2010 by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for the PBS series Faces of America showed that Yamaguchi's heritage can be traced back to Wakayama and Saga prefectures in Japan and that her paternal grandfather, Tatsuichi Yamaguchi, emigrated to Hawaii in 1899.[10]

Yamaguchi and her siblings, Brett and Lori, grew up in Fremont, California. In order to accommodate her training schedule, Yamaguchi was home-schooled for her first two years of high school, but attended Mission San Jose High School for her junior and senior years, where she graduated.[11]

Competitive skating career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Yamaguchi was born with bi-lateral clubfoot, resulting in serial leg casting for most of the first year of her life followed by corrective shoes and bracing,[12][13][14] and began skating as physical therapy when she was 4 or 5 after seeing Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill in the Ice Follies and Ice Capades.[15]

From sixth grade on, Yamaguchi practiced from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. before school and sometimes after school. Her mother would drive her to the rink every morning at 4 a.m. and wait for her to finish. She would also accompany Yamaguchi to competitions a couple of times a month.[15]

Pairs career[edit]

In 1986, Yamaguchi won the junior title at the U.S. championships with Rudy Galindo.[1] Two years later, Yamaguchi won the singles and, with Galindo, the pairs titles at the 1988 World Junior Championships;[citation needed] Galindo had won the 1987 World Junior Championship in singles. In 1989 Yamaguchi and Galindo won the senior pairs title at the U.S. Championships. They won the title again in 1990.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Singles career[edit]

Yamaguchi on an Azerbaijani postage stamp

1989-1990 season: Goodwill Games gold[edit]

Yamaguchi won her first major international gold medal in figure skating at the 1990 Goodwill Games.[citation needed]

1990-91 season: First world title[edit]

In 1991, Yamaguchi moved to Edmonton, Alberta, to train with coach Christy Ness. There, she took psychology courses at the University of Alberta.[16] 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, Germany, Yamaguchi won the 1991 World Championships.[17] That year, the American ladies team, consisting of Yamaguchi, Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, became the only national ladies team to have its members sweep the Worlds podium until the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships, when Anna Shcherbakova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alexandra Trusova swept the podium representing FSR.[18]

1991-92 season: Olympic gold and second world title[edit]

In 1992, Yamaguchi won her first U.S. title and gained a spot to the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Joining her on the U.S. team were again Kerrigan and Harding. While 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.[19][17] 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 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. She later explained her mindset during the long program: “You just do your best and forget the rest." Yamaguchi went on to successfully defend her World title that same year.[citation needed]

Professional skating career[edit]

Yamaguchi planned to start the 1992-93 competitive season at Prague Skate in Czechoslovakia in November but U.S Figure Skating insisted that all its skaters competed at Skate America which was due to take place a month earlier in October. Skate America became a source of contention between the federation and Yamaguchi who was unable to be ready in time due to a busy schedule with commercial appearances and speaking engagements following her wins at the 1992 Winter Olympics and 1992 World Championships. As a result, Yamaguchi decided to turn professional after the 1991–92 competitive season[19] and immediately started competing at the pro competition circuit, starting with the World Professional Figure Skating Championships in December 1992 where she captured her first world pro gold.[20][21] By the time, she stopped competing as a professional, she had become a 4-time professional world champion (1992, 1994, 1996 and 1997).[22] She finished second in 1993 behind Midori Ito and in 1995 behind Yuka Sato.[23]

She toured extensively with Stars On Ice for over a decade.[22] Originally, Stars On Ice was a 30-city tour but when Yamaguchi joined, it quickly became a 60-city tour due to her ability to captivate an audience.[24] She collaborated with a variety of 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," Yamaguchi noted.[25]

Public life and popular culture[edit]


In the ensuing months and years after she stood atop the podium in Albertville in 1992, Yamaguchi showed up on cereal boxes like Kellogg's Special K, on Hallmark Christmas ornaments, in ads for Got Milk? and Hoechst Celanese, as well as commercials for brands, fast food chains and department store chains like Mervyn’s, Wendy's, DuraSoft and Entenmann’s doughnuts.[24][26][27] She was also featured in ads for Campbell Soup, a sponsor of U.S. Figure Skating at the time.[28] In 2010, Yamaguchi was engaged by P&G to help kick off their "Thanks Mom" program in connection with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver,[29] collaborated with OPI and General Electric in 2011,[25] and appeared in a TV spot for department store retail chain Kohl's in 2012.[30] In 2018, Yamaguchi worked with the Milk Life Campaign that aims to explain the significance of milk in a well-balanced, nutritious diet. As part of the campaign, Yamaguchi recreated her Got Milk? from the 1990s and was photographed by Annie Leibowitz.[31] Yamaguchi has been represented by IMG since 1992.[32]


Yamaguchi made a fitness video with the California Raisins in 1993 called "Hip to be Fit: The California Raisins and Kristi Yamaguchi". She has appeared as herself on shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Fresh Off the Boat,[33] Hell's Kitchen and Freedom: A History of US as well as in films like D2: The Mighty Ducks, Frosted Pink, and the Disney Channel original movie Go Figure.[citation needed] In 2006, Yamaguchi was the host of WE tv series Skating's Next Star, created and produced by Major League Figure Skating. Yamaguchi was a local commentator on figure skating for San Jose TV station KNTV (NBC 11) during the 2006 Winter Olympics.[34] In 2010, Yamaguchi worked as a daily NBC Olympics skating broadcast analyst on NBC's Universal Sports Network. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Kristi was also a special correspondent for the Today Show.[35]

She performed in numerous television skating specials, including the Disney special Aladdin on Ice, in which she played Princess Jasmine,[citation needed] and in 2016 she hosted the "Colgate Skating Series" on ABC, a show featuring skaters such as Nancy Kerrigan, Paul Wylie, and Todd Eldridge, who performed with their families.[36]

On May 20, 2008, Yamaguchi became the champion of the sixth season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars[37], where she was paired with Mark Ballas. Yamaguchi made a special appearance in the finale of the sixteenth season where she danced alongside Dorothy Hamill, and in November 2017, she returned to Dancing With the Stars' 25th season in week eight,[38] to participate in a jazz trio with Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas.[39]

Kristi Yamaguchi - Dancing with the Stars (season 6)
Week Dance Music Judges' scores[a] Total score Result
1 Foxtrot "The More I See You" — Michael Bublé 9 9 9 27 Safe
2 Mambo "Hey Baby" — No Doubt, featuring Bounty Killer 9 9 9 27 Safe
3 Tango "Rio" — Duran Duran 9 9 9 27 Safe
4 Paso doble "Blue Monday" — New Order 10 9 10 29 Safe
5 Rumba "Say" — John Mayer 9 10 10 29 Safe
6 Jive "Rip it Up" — Little Richard 10 10 10 30 Safe
Group two-step "Cotton-Eyed Joe" — The Nashville Riders [b]
7 Viennese waltz "I'm with You" — Avril Lavigne 9 8 9 26 Safe
Cha-cha-cha "Don't Stop the Music" — Rihanna 10 8 10 28
8 Quickstep "Billy a Dick" — Klaus Hallen 9 10 10 29 Safe
Samba "Volare" — Gipsy Kings 8 9 9 26
9 Tango "Midnight Tango" — Arthur Murray Orchestra 10 9 10 29 Safe
Jive "Nutbush City Limits" — Tina Turner 9 9 10 28
(Night 1)
Cha-cha-cha "Dancing on the Ceiling" — Lionel Richie 10 10 10 30 Safe
Freestyle "Workin' Day and Night" — Michael Jackson 10 10 10 30
(Night 2)
Jive "Rip it Up" — Little Richard 10 10 10 30 Winner
  1. ^ Individual judges' scores are listed in the following order: Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli.
  2. ^ No scores or points were awarded for this group dance.

Books and magazines[edit]

Yamaguchi authored five books. She released Figure Skating for Dummies in 1997 followed by Always Dream, Pure Gold in 1998. In 2011, she published her award-winning children's book, Dream Big, Little Pig,[40][41] which was No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and received the Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award. A portion of the proceeds went to the Always Dream Foundation to support early childhood literacy programs.[42] A sequel, It's a Big World Little Pig,[43] was published March 6, 2012.[40] Cara's Kindness, which was illustrated by PIxar artist John Lee,[40] was released in 2016.

Throughout the years, Yamaguchi has graced the covers of Sports Illustrated, People, and other magazines.[24]


Yamaguchi at The Heart Truth fashion show in 2009

In early 2012, Yamaguchi created a woman's active wear line focused on function, comfort, and style to empower women to look good and feel good. The lifestyle brand is called Tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi. "[Tsu.ya] is actually my middle name, and it was my grand-mother's name [and] a nod to my Japanese heritage. We put the period in there because we thought it would break it up and make it easier to pronounce," remarked Yamaguchi. Tsu.ya donates a portion of its proceeds to support early childhood literacy through Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation.[44]

In February 2009, Kristi walked the runway with nineteen other celebrity women at the Heart Truth fashion show that took place during New York Fashion Week to raise awareness about heart disease.[45] The Heart Truth, a national health education program, created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002, and a selection of the red designer dresses seen on the runway were later auctioned off.[46]

Philanthropy and supported causes[edit]

In 1996, Yamaguchi established the Always Dream Foundation for children. The goal of the foundation is to provide funding for after school programs, computers, back-to-school clothes for underprivileged children, and summer camps for kids with disabilities. Commenting in 2009, she explained her inspiration for the project: "I was inspired by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make a positive difference in children’s lives. We’ve been helping out various children’s organizations, which is rewarding. Our latest project is a playground designed so that kids of all abilities can play side by side. That’s our focus now."[47] Currently, her Always Dream Foundation is focused on early childhood literacy and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the non-profit supplied tablets so provided tablets stocked with digital books, as well as internet access through a mobile data plan, to students in need.[48]

In 2011, Yamaguchi worked with the American Lung Association, promoting their “Faces of Influenza” campaign.[25]

Accolades and impact[edit]

Figure skating had long been the domain of white Americans and Europeans. Yamaguchi finished ahead of two Japanese skaters at a competition in 1988 but the medal ceremony was delayed while organizers tried to track down a Japanese flag for Yamaguchi, unaware that she was American.[19] Yamaguchi was the first Asian American to win gold at a Winter Olympic Games,[24] paving the way for Asian American skaters that came after her like 2-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan, 2022 Olympic champion Nathan Chen, world medalist Alysa Liu and U.S. champion Karen Chen.[19] Five of the sixteen athletes on the U.S. team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing were of Asian descent. Four years earlier at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, there were seven with ice dance siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.[19]

Yamaguchi has received numerous awards in recognition of her achievements and impact. She was the recipient of 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, the Heisman Humanitarian Award,[49] the Great Sports Legends Award as well as the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award.[50] 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.[51][52]

Personal life[edit]

On July 8, 2000, she married Bret Hedican, a professional hockey player she met at the 1992 Winter Olympics when he played for Team USA. After their wedding, Yamaguchi and Hedican resided in Raleigh, North Carolina where Hedican played for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team and won his only Stanley Cup in 2006. He also played for one year with the Anaheim Ducks. They now live in Alamo[53] in northern California with their two daughters.[54] They also have a summer home on Gull Lake in northern Minnesota.[55][56]

In 2012, Yamaguchi appeared in a campaign advertisement for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.[57] She endorsed the politician in both of his presidential bids, donating the legal maximum of $2,300 to Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, and $2,500 to his 2012 presidential campaign.[58] Yamaguchi identifies as a conservative Republican; yet, she stated in 2009 that she appreciated then-president Barack Obama as a "decision-maker", nonetheless criticizing in the same interview the state of the economy under his leadership.[59][60]



  • Program details mentioned at first occurrence
  • Olympic seasons highlighted in blue
  • Programs performed at the Winter Olympics highlighted in bold
Competition and exhibition programs by season 
Season Short program Free skate program Exhibition program
Olympic season
Show programs as a professional skater by year 
Year Program Event
1992[61] 1992 World Pro
1993 World Pro
1994[61][62] 1994 World Pro
Ice Wars I
Reflections of Passion
1995[61][62] 1995 World Pro
Ice Wars II
1996[61] 1996 World Pro
Louis Armstrong Medley
1997 World Pro
Ice Wars VI
Ice Wars VII
"Dance With Me Slow"
World Ice Challenge
"Just a Try"


(With Rudy Galindo)

  • Program details mentioned at first occurrence
Competition programs by season 
Season Short program Free skate program
Another Cha-Cha
  1. The Tap Dance Kid
  2. 42nd Street
  1. The Tap Dance Kid
  2. 42nd Street

Competitive highlights[edit]

Yamaguchi's figure skates at the Museum of American History

Singles career[edit]

Competition placements at junior and senior level 
Event 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90 1990–91 1991–92
Winter Olympics 1st
World Championships 6th 4th 1st 1st
GP International de Paris 2nd
GP Nations Cup 1st
GP NHK Trophy 2nd 2nd
GP Skate America 3rd 1st 2nd
GP Skate Canada 1st
Goodwill Games 1st
U.S. Olympic Festival 1st
World Junior Championships 1st J
U.S. Championships 2nd J 10th 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st

Professional career[edit]

Competition placements at professional level 
Event 1992–93 1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05
Battle of the Sexes on Ice 2nd
Challenge of Champions 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 2nd
Gold Championships 1st 1st 1st
Ice Wars 1st 1st 1st 2nd 1st 2nd
Rock 'N' Roll Championships 1st 2nd
Ultimate Four 3rd 2nd 2nd
World Professional Championships 1st 2nd 1st 2nd 1st 1st 2nd
World Team Championships 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd

Pairs skating with Rudy Galindo[edit]

Competition placements at senior and junior level 
Event 1984–85 1985-86 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90
World Championships 5th 5th
GP NHK Trophy 3rd 4th
GP Skate America 5th 2nd
Skate Electric Challenge 1st
World Junior Championships 5th J 3rd J 1st J
U.S. Championships 5th J 1st J 5th 5th 1st 1st


Bong Joon-ho's performances
Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1994 You Must Remember This Herself / Madame X
1994 D2: The Mighty Ducks Herself (Cameo)
1995 Aladdin on Ice Jasmine
1997 Everybody Loves Raymond Herself (Cameo) Episode: The Dog [63]
1998 The Great Skate Debate II Skater
2001 On Edge Regional Judge #4
2003 Freedom: A History of Us Haruko Obata Episode: Depression and War
2005 Go Figure Herself (Cameo)
2012 Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice Herself - Host
2013 Hell's Kitchen Herself (Dining room guest) Episode: 17 Chefs Compete
2018 Fresh Off the Boat Herself / First Lady Kristi Yamaguchi-Huang Episode: King in the North


  • Yamaguchi, Kristi (December 31, 1997). Figure Skating for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books. ISBN 0-7645-5084-5. 346 p.
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi (April 28, 1998). Always Dream. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0878339969
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi (March 1, 2011). Dream Big Little Pig, Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. ISBN 978-0-545-44969-4. 32 p.
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi (March 1, 2012). It's a Big World, Little Pig!. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. ISBN 978-1402266447. 32 p.
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi (October 4, 2016). Cara's Kindness. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. ISBN 978-1492616863. 32 p.


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  13. ^[bare URL]
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Dancing with the Stars (US) winners
Season 6
(Spring 2008 with Mark Ballas)
Succeeded by