Kristi Yamaguchi Still Strives for Gold on and Off the Ice
Entertainment The Olympic figure skater continues to set big goals for herself, encouraging other female athletes to chase their potential and tear down barriers.
For Kristi Yamaguchi, winning the coveted gold medal at the 1992 Winter Games was only the beginning.
“Having the title opened the door to many opportunities that came my way. The hardest part about training was keeping my nose to the grindstone physically but also mentally — finding ways to work through doubts, the ups-and-downs and developing a tough, competitive mind.”
The perseverance paid off, making Yamaguchi a household name.
“I had many role models coming up as a skater. One of them was U.S. Champion Tiffany Chin. I identified with her Asian-American heritage. That connection made an impression that I could be like her.
“She blazed a trail for me to follow,” explains the two-time World Champion and U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductee. “I hope we as Asian-Americans can continue that in all walks of life.”
Regarding gender equality, says Yamaguchi, “Everyone should have the same opportunity to go for their dream. And as they pursue their dreams, it's only fair the national governing bodies provide equal compensation for the training and expenses of athletes.”
“Title IX,” she adds, “has opened the door for so many female athletes, and the proof is in the largest participation of female athletes in the Olympic Games for the United States in recent games. I hope this continues. It would be great to see female athletes represented in even more sports.”
The sooner the better
Yamaguchi recommends parents involve their daughters in sports early on. “Both our daughters participate. They learn so much about themselves and life lessons that will serve them well.”
“Everyone should have the same opportunity to go for their dream.”
Through figure skating, Yamaguchi recognized the importance of setting goals and trying new things. “I thought about walking away at one point. But I had to dig deep and rediscover the love I had for skating. This gave me new perspective and relit the passion I had to compete.”
Yamaguchi's greatest personal accomplishment has been establishing the Always Dream Foundation. “I'm proud we've had 21 continuous years of giving to underserved children here in the United States. I'd like to continue to make a difference and scale what we do to serve even more children with our literacy program. If I can make a positive difference in a child's life, the reward is immeasurable."
She also helps mentor the reigning U.S. ladies champion, Karen Chen, who, like Yamaguchi, is from Fremont, Calif. “I think the Fremont connection was one thing that brought us together at the beginning,” Yamaguchi says. “But for me to see she really had some special qualities, I knew if they could be nurtured she would be on the path to great success in skating.”
Go for the gold
Yamaguchi says athletes wanting to get back into shape during the off-season need proper nutrition, rest and a gradual transition. “Pace yourself as you come back. Build up your training again, so you don't injure yourself.”
For those dreaming of winning a gold medal, “Dream big and go after it. Chase it. It'll take hard work, but if you believe in yourself, anything can happen.”