Yamaguchi's work far from over
Published: Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
So what would you do, if Kristi Yamaguchi stood in front of an audience, asking, “Any questions?” Would you ask her about her winning the 1992 Olympic gold medal in ladies' singles figure skating? Would you ask her how did it feel to win “Dancing With The Stars” a couple of years ago? Would you ask her what's it like to be so famous?
“Did you ever get dizzy skating?” a kid asked Friday.
Kids, they are so beautifully, spectacularly, profoundly, uncomplicated.
“All the time,” Yamaguchi said. “You just learn to recover.”
Friday Yamaguchi visited three Petaluma elementary schools — Grant, McDowell, Meadow — promoting and signing her children's picture book, “Dream Big, Little Pig.” She finished the day at Copperfield's, then drove down to San Francisco for a telethon to raise money for the Japanese tsunami victims, still following the advice her parents gave her as a child.
“If I am to do anything,” said Yamaguchi, “I need to do it 110 percent.”
Her resume, however, indicates she's driving the needle to 150 percent. Actress, author of two books, “Dancing” champion, producer of a soon-to-be released exercise video, running her charitable “Always Dream” foundation, mother of two girls, Olympic champion, two-time world champion, Yamaguchi looked Friday as if she just returned from a cruise.
“But over the last year,” Yamaguchi said, “my body hasn't liked the pain so much. I have some arthritis in my knees.”
She's 39 but still looks 19, not a hint of a gnarly wrinkle. Relaxed, trim at five feet, her celebrity not worn on her sleeve, Yamaguchi offers that uncommon visage for someone famous — she is approachable.
“People all the time tell me,” said her mother, Carole, “that Kristi reminds them of their daughter.”
Her book is about overcoming obstacles, a pig who wants to be an ice skater. If she had called the book — “Dream Big, Little Kristi” — she wouldn't lack for material. Her grandparents were sent to a Japanese interment camp during World War II, her mother born in one. Kristi had two club feet at birth, both placed in casts for a year. Kristi at four saw Dorothy Hamill in the Olympics, wanted to begin skating but Carole refused, for fear of injury. Learn to read, mom said, and you can skate. Two years later Kristi accomplished the first and began the second.
Such is the unlikely beginning for an Olympic champion. The path less taken has now become the path so well-traveled, Yamaguchi has great hopes for her foundation eclipsing her skating fame.
“I hope my foundation creates a legacy that lives longer than me,” she said.
“Always Dream” sent $10,000 to Japan for the tsunami survivors. Part of the proceeds from her children's book will go there as well. She is obsessed with increasing the literacy in America, that “if you are reading below grade level by the third grade, the odds go up dramatically you won't finish high school.”
It is a life that has come full circle. Once, to be an Olympic champion, she had to be at the center of her world. Now, everyone else is. It's a move, Kristi Yamaguchi would like to think, more satisfying than anything she ever did on the ice.
For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky's blog at padecky.blogs. pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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