Olympic ice skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi, 38, is living life to the fullest these days! From competing on Dancing with the Stars to signing on to be a special correspondent for Today during the 2010 Winter Olympics, this busy wife and mother of two is finding balance and having a blast.
Kristi recently opened up to Working Mother about her passion of figure skating and life with daughters, Keara Kiyomi, 6, and Emma Yoshiko, 4, and husband, former Olympic/retired pro-hockey player, Bret Hedican, 39.
On how her children have changed her life: “I want to be there for my kids. My priorities have changed drastically, and I’m lucky I was ready for that. I’d done everything I ever wanted to do in skating. I’d toured with Stars on Ice for ten years. I was ready to hang up the skates, unpack my suitcase and not pack it for a very long time.”
On her daughters’ distinctive personalities: “After the first one is born, you think the second one will be the same—but she’s not. Keara is very social, outgoing and adaptable. I see a lot of myself in Emma. She’s Mommy’s girl, like I was. She’s a little shy in social situations until she gets comfortable. Keara is more artistic. She loves imaginary play. Emma has really good athletic ability. She’s physically tough. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do.”
On who’s the family chef: “Bret and I share the responsibility of meals. If we’re grilling meat, he does it. I’m not a fancy cook—I’ll make a pork loin or Japanese breaded chicken, chicken stir-fry, spaghetti.”
On how she met her husband: “We met at the opening ceremonies at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He plays ice hockey, and I met the whole hockey team. We met again a few years later when he was playing in Vancouver. When he was in San Jose, I went to watch him play. I thought he was a really nice guy, polite, worth getting to know some more. We met up for ice cream—our first date. Our courtship meant seeing each other maybe once a month for a couple of hours. We understood each other’s lifestyle and dedication and training. We got married in 2000.”
On balancing her career and her family life: “In my twenties I never thought I’d still be working this hard in my thirties. I do feel lucky that I did a lot of my skating, which would have been hard on me as a mom, early on—all that touring and living on the road. I’m happy I’m still busy—off the ice. I still juggle. Sometimes I think I overextend myself because I’m traveling too much and am away from the kids. It’s a fine line to find that balance. These days I make business decisions based on whether something is worth my time away from my kids.”
On what inspired her to skate: “I was born with clubfeet, and I had plaster casts on my legs from when I was a couple of months old until age 1. When the casts came off, I wore corrective shoes connected by a brace to turn my feet until I was about 2. The braces hurt my legs a lot, and I remember trying to walk with a bar in between my feet—I had to shuffle. I was lucky they corrected it when I was so young. Skating wasn’t assigned to me, but when I wanted to skate, the doctors said it would help. I expressed an interest when I was about 4 or 5. I’d seen the Ice Follies, the Ice Capades. I remember seeing Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill and wanting to capture the magic of those shows.”
On her biggest surprise since becoming a mother: “I’ve realized how precious life is. When I was younger, I was more adventurous. I felt invincible. I was game for everything. As a mom, I don’t want to get injured because then I can’t take care of my kids. Even getting on an airplane, I’m more conscious of…Like they say, once you have a child, your heart is forever outside your body. I totally understand that now.”