Kristi Yamaguchi Talks Olympics With Glamour Magazine

 

'Tis the season of figure skating! Although the next Winter Olympics are still more than two years away (hard to believe, but Sochi was only a year ago this past February), ABC will be airing four upcoming ice-skating specials over the next few months. These aren't just any specials though. Kristi Yamaguchi will host alongside skating champions such as Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, and more familiar faces.

The first of the four Colgate Skating Series specials (called Musselman's Apple Sauce Family Skating Tribute) will air this Sunday afternoon, and it's a program that host Yamaguchi has gotten more comfortable with over the years. "I've been hosting for five plus years, but it took a while [to get comfortable]," she says. The hardest part? "Pronouncing some of the names," she laughs. Although she doesn't consider herself to be a natural public speaker, it's a role that Yamaguchi has learned to embrace, especially as a mom to two young girls. That's also why you won't actually see Yamaguchi on the ice, because "between my schedule and their schedule, skating just isn't the priority. They are. I don't have the energy and time commitment to train myself!"

Yamaguchi still promises she skates for fun, but just not on television...yet. She's busy working with her women's active wear line called tsuya (pronounced tsoo-ya)—which is actually Kristi's middle name and her grandmother's maiden name. "It's a product with a purpose, so a portion of proceeds go to supporting my foundation for childhood literacy. I tried to bring my experience having lived in active wear and costumes my whole life!"

Speaking of those costumes, we had a little fun revisiting those earlier days with Yamaguchi, as she reflected on her time at the Olympics, what she wished she could change, and who she's keeping her eye on in the future.

Glamour: How have you changed the most since rising to fame at the Winter Olympics in 1992?
Kristi Yamaguchi: I've had to open up a lot more. As a 20-year-old at the Olympics, your world is so insulated. You're so worried about yourself and your training, and then all of a sudden people know who you are. It was several years of transitioning into having a more public life and finding a role for myself. I became interested in philanthropy and starting my own foundation. You learn not to be so guarded and just be yourself.

Glamour: Have you been back to Albertville, France, since you won the gold medal in '92?
Kristi: I haven’t, no. It’s kind of an out-of-the-way place, but I wouldn’t mind going back.

Glamour: I think everyone remembers that sparkly gold and black costume you wore for your final performance. Where is it?
Kristi: That’s in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Figure Skating Museum, along with the medal. It’s on loan there, but they have a nice display with many other skating [memorabilia]. If you’re a skating fan, it’s really nice. It's better that the medal is there than sitting at home in the closet or in a bank safety box. It’s been probably over two years since I saw [the medal]. At the time, my family and I were out in Colorado Springs, and the kids saw it for the first time in person. It was a fun thing to get their reaction.
Glamour: What did your kids say?
Kristi: "Oh yeah, this is neat." [Laughs] The museum curator made them put white gloves on to hold the medal, and they thought it was kinda cool.

Glamour: Let's go back to your long program that won you the gold. What do you remember before you stepped onto the ice?
Kristi: It's kind of terrifying, but I was constantly telling myself, "Just do it like in practice. And then in four minutes and 10 seconds it’ll be done!" When you’re performing that whole time, your aerobic and anaerobic energy is really put to the test.

Glamour: How often have your girls watched that performance?
Kristi: They’ve seen it at functions. But to me, I’m just Mom. They’re just like, "Whatever." Maybe when they get older.

Glamour: Even though it won you the gold, would you have done anything differently in that routine?
Kristi: I have a critical eye of it still. I actually haven’t watched it a ton. I’ve watched it maybe four times all the way through. It feels so much different than what it appears on TV, but I think I was very serous and keeping my emotions in check. At times, I wished I would have smiled a little bit more, but I obviously was trying to focus.

Glamour: Some fans may be surprised to know this, but you pair-skated for many years with Rudy Galindo. How did you know it was the right time to go out on your own?
Kristi: It was tough. It was a fork in the road because I had skated for seven years both in single and pairs. It was a bit of a revelation at the World Championship in 1990, which was our last year competing as pairs. I think we knew the writing was on the wall. To break into the top three at the world level was next to impossible with the caliber we were competing against. Our partnership was running its course, and we were struggling a little bit, while on the single side of things, things were starting to progress. I loved [pair-skating] though, and it was devastating because Rudy thought we would be skating forever together. It was [like] a break-up and a tough thing to go through. I mean, I had something to focus on immediately as a singles performer, but having that experience as a pair skater is something I absolutely love.
Glamour: Have you ever skated with your husband?
Kristi: Maybe early on, but not recently. We’ll skate as a family!

Glamour: Speaking of skating for fun, I think we all agree that it's torture watching anyone fall on ice. As professional skaters, you're used to it, but even so, how much does it hurt?
Kristi: It depends on how you fall. Some falls really hurt if you fall straight on your knee or on your hip. The worst ones are when you fall on your tailbone. Sometimes you’ll fall on the ice and it jars you, but then you’re like, "OK, get up and keep going."

Glamour: The next Winter Olympics aren't until 2018, but who should we be paying attention to in the next couple of years?
Kristi: There are two or three in the U.S. who have great potential. I enjoy Gracie Gold and Karen Chen. She’s a local hometown connection. And then Polina Edmunds from the Bay area. Those three…and Ashley Wagner as well, because she’s a veteran, will be really strong come the next Olympics.

The Colgate Skating Series: “Musselman’s Apple Sauce Family Skating Tribute” will air this Sunday, November 15, at 3 P.M. ET. on ABC.




Kristi Yamaguchi
Kristi Yamaguchi

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