It’s hard to believe it’s been over 12 years since Kristi Yamaguchi skated her way to Olympic gold.
At the age of 20, Kristi was America’s sweetheart and went on to skate professionally for over a decade. Now, 42, she’s the mother of two young girls and hopes to inspire today’s young skaters to dream big.
Kristi reveals to Healthy Hollywood that she remembers all the pressure on Olympic hopefuls. January is major for competitive skaters; as the U.S. team will be decided after this weekend’s U.S. Skating Championship. “It is their do or die time. This is where you have to prove yourself to make the team. The pressure of making the team is monumental. For the skaters, they want to go out there and perform like they’ve been training all year. Right now, they’re ramping up and hopefully will skate well, skate strong and will keep February in the back of their mind that this is when you want to peak.”
Amid the pressure and chatter of who will end up heading to Sochi, Kristi says it’s also important to pay tribute to an athlete’s biggest supporter – their mom. Kristi has teamed up with P & G “Thank You, Mom” campaign. Today they debut their on-line film “Pick Them Back Up”, which celebrates the emotional journey of athletes and their moms. “I see this film from two different angles; an athlete and as a mom. As an athlete, I had an amazing support system and my mom was the most incredible cheerleader. “The Pick Them Back Up” campaign hits close to home and you remember those times of hitting obstacles and having those downs and my mom encouraging me to never to give up.”
Kristi tells me her mom and family had to make a lot of sacrifices in order for Kristi to achieve her dream. And, it was her mom, who always encouraged her winning spirit, adding, “There were times when I was struggling and thought my time would never come as a competitor. She was like ‘you got to stick it out and put in your time’. She was wise and smart enough to realize that and helped me realize that too.”
As a mother of two young girls, with her husband, Bret Hedican, who is a retired professional hockey player, they both understand the positive impact parents can have on aspiring athletes. Both of her daughters are physically active and the youngest one, 8, is starting to skate. “I hope they find a passion. It might not be a sport. It might be music and hopefully academics. But, it’s an athletic endeavor I would be encourage it. I look back and would do it all over again. I’m thankful for all the sport has given me; all the positives and the lessons. So, I would encourage if it’s in their hearts. My husband and I both know what it takes and know that has to come from within the athlete. We can push them as hard as we can but that’s only going to take them so far. It’s their willingness and passion that will take them to the next level.”
As for hanging up her skates, Kristi says she stills get on the ice once a week with her daughter, but she doesn’t miss the intensity of the sport. “You do miss some part of the competition and you miss being in that Olympic shape. But, at the same time, life goes on and it’s a different role. It’s fun to be able to continue to support the athletes.
To watch firsthand stories of an athlete’s journey to greatness, you can check out “Pick Them Back Up” on YouTube. Kristi tells me to be sure to have a box of tissue handy. These stories are incredibly moving.