Club Feet or Foot Series-Disabled Legend Kristi Yamaguchi

Kristine Tsuya “Kristi” Yamaguchi- Hedican was born on 12 July, 1971 in Hayward, California, USA. Kristi Yamaguchi is an American figure skater and the 1992 Olympic Champion in women’s singles. Kristi Yamaguchi also won 2 World Figure Skating Championships in 1991 and 1992 and a U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1992. Kristi Yamaguchi won 1 junior world title in 1988 and 2 national titles in 1989 and 1990 as a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo. In December 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Kristi Yamaguchi was a local commentator on figure skating for San Francisco-area TV station KNTV (NBC 11) during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

On 20 May, 2008, Kristi Yamaguchi became the celebrity champion in the 6th season of Dancing with the Stars with pro dance partner Mark Ballas, defeating finalist couple Jason Taylor and Edyta Śliwińska. The judges commented that she was the most consistent competitor of any dancer in any season of the show. According to the host of the show, she had the highest scores of any competitor in the show’s history.

A 3rd generation Japanese American, Kristi Yamaguchi was born to Jim Yamaguchi, a dentist, and Carole Doi, a medical secretary. Kristi Yamaguchi’s grandparents were sent to an internment camp during World War II, where her mother was born. Kristi Yamaguchi and her siblings, Brett and Lori, grew up in Fremont, California, USA where Kristi Yamaguchi attended Mission San Jose High School her freshman year and transferred to Willow Glen High School in San Jose, California, USA where she graduated. Kristi Yamaguchi began skating as a child, as physical therapy for her club feet.

With Rudy Galindo she won the junior title at the U.S. championships in 1986. 2 years later, Kristi Yamaguchi won the singles and, with Galindo, the pairs titles at the 1988 World Junior Pair Championships; Rudy Galindo had won the 1987 World Junior Championship in singles. In 1989 Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo won the senior U.S. championships pairs title and won again in 1990.

As a pairs team, Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy 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. They also jumped and spun in opposite directions, Kristi Yamaguchi counter-clockwise, and Rudy Galindo clockwise, which gave them an unusual look on the ice. In 1990, Kristi Yamaguchi decided to focus solely on singles. Rudy Galindo went on to have a successful singles career as well, winning the 1996 U.S. championships and the 1996 World bronze medal.

In 1991, Kristi Yamaguchi moved to Edmonton, Alberta to train with coach Christy Ness. The same year Kristi Yamaguchi placed 2nd to Tonya Harding at the U.S. championships, her 3rd consecutive silver medal at Nationals. The following month in Munich, Germany, Kristi Yamaguchi won the 1991 World Championships. That year the American ladies team, consisting of Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, became the 1st and only national ladies team to have its members place 1st, 2nd and 3rd at Worlds. In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi won her 1st U.S. title and gained a spot to the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France. Joining her on the U.S. team were again Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. While competitors Tonya Harding and Japan’s Midori Ito were consistently landing the difficult triple axel jump in competition, Kristi Yamaguchi instead focused on her artistry and her triple-triple combinations in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded skater. Both Tonya Harding and Midori Ito fell on their triple axels at the Olympics (though Ito successfully landed the jump later on in her long programme after missing it the first time), allowing Kristi Yamaguchi to win the gold, despite errors in her free programme, including putting a hand to the ice on a triple loop and a double salchow instead of a planned triple. Kristi Yamaguchi went on to successfully defend her World title that same year.

Though Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal, she would be overshadowed in publicity and endorsements by Nancy Kerrigan who later endured the highly publicised attack staged by associates of teammate Tonya Harding. Kristi Yamaguchi never expressed any dissatisfaction with her lack of endorsements as she had one of the most successful professional skating careers since Sonja Henie, performing with such shows as Champions on Ice and Stars on Ice for over 10 years. Kristi Yamaguchi received endorsements deals from Wendy’s and DuraSoft Colours contact lenses, but not high-profile, multimillion-dollar deals with corporate giants like Campbells, Disney or Pepsi. Some suspected that her Asian heritage may have put her at a disadvantage. Bill Imada, whose firm advises companies on marketing to Asian Americans observes that for marketers “People like Kristi Yamaguchi don’t represent, at least with marketers, the wholesome all-American image”.

Kristi Yamaguchi later received contracts with high fashion firms like Celanese Acetate, appeared in a “Got Milk” ad, and was featured on a Wheaties Box. In 2008, she became the 1st woman to drop the green flag to start the Indianapolis 500.

On 16 July, 2008 in a Harris Poll quoted by MarketWatch put Kristi Yamaguchi in the top 10 of US Favourite Female Sport Stars even after 16 years of her Olympic win. Fellow figure skater Michelle Kwan, who also is “Asian American” is on the list too.

Kristi Yamaguchi turned professional after the 1992 competitive season. Kristi Yamaguchi toured for many years with Stars on Ice and was also a fixture on the pro competition circuit, where she continued to be technically competitive with the younger ladies that had only recently retired. In recent years she has cut back on her skating schedule to concentrate on family life. Since 8 July, 2000 she has been married to Bret Hedican, a professional hockey player she initially met at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Kristi Yamaguchi and Bret Hedican, who is currently with the Carolina Hurricanes, reside in Raleigh, North Carolina with their 2 daughters, Keara Kiyomi, born on 1 October, 2003 and Emma Yoshiko, born on 17 November, 2005 in Raleigh.

In 1996, she established the Always Dream Foundation for children. Kristi Yamaguchi is also the author of Always Dream, Pure Gold, and Figure Skating for Dummies. Kristi Yamaguchi made a fitness video with the California Raisins in 1993 called, “Hip to be Fit: The California Raisins and Kristi Yamaguchi”.

As an actress, she appeared in the PBS series, Freedom: A History of Us portraying Haruko Obata, one of the first teachers of ikebana in the San Francisco Bay Area. As herself, she appeared on Everybody Loves Raymond, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Frosted Pink, and the Disney Channel original movie Go Figure. Kristi Yamaguchi has also appeared in numerous television skating specials including the Disney special Aladdin on Ice, portraying Princess Jasmine.

Kristi Yamaguchi received the Inspiration Award at the 2008 Asian Excellence Awards. 2 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, and the Great Sports Legends Awards. Kristi Yamaguchi 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.

Kristi Yamaguchi is the 2008 season winner on ABC’s reality programme Dancing with the Stars 6th season paired with Mark Ballas. In the 1st 3 weeks, they received scores of 9, 9, and 9 for a total of 27 for their Foxtrot, Mambo, & Tango. This was the highest 1st and 3rd week score in the show’s history. During the 4th week, she received 10, 9, and 10 to have a total of 29, and the 5th week she received 9, 10, and 10 of having another total of 29 on the Paso Doble & Rumba. On her 21 April performance she received a perfect 30 score from the judges for her Jive. This makes her holding the 1st place spot for 6 weeks in a row, which is a new record on the show.

During the 7th week, she didn’t come in 1st. Kristi Yamaguchi received a 26 out of 30for her Viennese Waltz which the judges gave her 9, 8, and 9 which gives her 1st 8 ever given, and her Cha-Cha-Cha was a 28 out of 30. The judges gave her 10, 8, and 10. Kristi Yamaguchi ended up with a 54 out of 60 which put her in 2nd, her 1st time not being 1st on the judge’s leaderboard.

On the 8th week of competition, they received a 29 out of 30 as the judges scored 9, 10, and 10 for their quickstep and 26 out of 30 for their sassy samba with the judges scored them for 8,9, and 9.

In the 9th week of competition, Kristi Yamaguchi got her “top spot” back after 2 weeks. On the Tango, the judges gave her a 29 and on the Jive, 28.

On the 10 week of the competition (finals), she received the highest score once again, breaking the tie with Mario Lopez for the most times a celebrity placed 1st place. On her “Mambo and Hip Hop” mesh Freestyle to Michael Jackson’s Working Day and Night, the judges gave her a perfect 30, her 1st since her Jive in Week 6. On her Cha-Cha, she received another 30. Kristi Yamaguchi received all but 1 of the perfect 30s awarded in that season (Jason Taylor’s finale dance being the other). The Cha-Cha was danced back-to-back for the finals.

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