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Kristi Yamaguchi
Kristi Yamaguchi 1996.jpg
Yamaguchi in 1996
Personal information
Full name Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi
Country represented  United States
Born (1971-07-12) July 12, 1971 (age 51)
Hayward, California, U.S.
Height 4 ft 11.5 in
Former partner Rudy Galindo
Former coach Christy Ness
Former choreographer Sandra Bezic
Skating club St. Moritz ISC
Retired 1992
Medal record
Representing the  United States
Ladies' figure skating
Olympic Games
Gold 1992 Albertville Ladies' singles
World Championships
Gold 1991 Munich Ladies' singles
Gold 1992 Oakland Ladies' singles
World Junior Championships
Gold 1988 Brisbane Ladies' singles
Pairs' figure skating
World Junior Championships
Gold 1988 Brisbane Pairs
Bronze 1987 Kitchener Pairs

Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi (born July 12, 1971) is an American former figure skater. In ladies' singles, Yamaguchi is the 1992 Olympic champion, a two-time World champion (1991 and 1992), and the 1992 U.S. champion. In 1992, she became the first Asian American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic competition. As a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo, she is the 1988 World Junior champion and a two-time national champion (1989 and 1990). In December 2005, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 2008, Yamaguchi became the celebrity champion in the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars.

Early life

Yamaguchi was born on July 12, 1971, in Hayward, California, to Jim Yamaguchi, a dentist, and Carole (née Doi), a medical secretary. Yamaguchi is Sansei (a third-generation descendant of Japanese emigrants). Her paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents emigrated to the United States from Japan, originating from Wakayama Prefecture and Saga Prefecture. Yamaguchi's grandparents were sent to an internment camp during World War II, where her mother was born. Her maternal grandfather, George A. Doi, was in the U.S. Army and fought in Germany and France during World War II during the time his family was interned at the Heart Mountain and Amache camps. Research done in 2010 by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for the PBS series Faces of America showed that Yamaguchi's heritage can be traced back to Wakayama and Saga prefectures in Japan and that her paternal grandfather, Tatsuichi Yamaguchi, emigrated to Hawaii in 1899.

Yamaguchi and her siblings, Brett and Lori, grew up in Fremont, California. In order to accommodate her training schedule, Yamaguchi was home-schooled for her first two years of high school, but attended Mission San Jose High School for her junior and senior years, where she graduated.

Skating career

Yamaguchi began skating and taking ballet lessons, as a child, as physical therapy for her club feet.

Pairs career

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

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

Singles career

Stamp of Azerbaijan - 1998 - Colnect 289128 - Figure skating
Yamaguchi on an Azerbaijani postage stamp

Yamaguchi won her first major international gold medal in figure skating at the 1990 Goodwill Games.

In 1991, Yamaguchi moved to Edmonton, Alberta, to train with coach Christy Ness. There, she took psychology courses at the University of Alberta. The same year, Yamaguchi placed second to Tonya Harding at the U.S. championships, her third consecutive silver medal at Nationals. The following month in Munich, Germany, Yamaguchi won the 1991 World Championships. That year, the American ladies team, consisting of Yamaguchi, Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, became the only national ladies team to have its members sweep the Worlds podium until the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships, when Anna Shcherbakova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Alexandra Trusova swept the podium representing FSR.

In 1992, Yamaguchi won her first U.S. title and gained a spot to the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Joining her on the U.S. team were again Kerrigan and Harding. While Harding and Japan's Midori Ito were consistently landing the difficult triple Axel jump in competition, Yamaguchi instead focused on her artistry and her triple-triple combinations in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded skater. Both Harding and Ito fell on their triple Axels at the Olympics (though Ito successfully landed the jump later on in her long program after missing the first time), allowing Yamaguchi to win the gold, despite errors in her free program, including putting a hand to the ice on a triple loop and a double salchow instead of a planned triple. She later explained her mindset during the long program: “You just do your best and forget the rest." Yamaguchi went on to successfully defend her World title that same year.

Professional career

Yamaguchi turned professional after the 1991–92 competitive season. She toured for many years with Stars on Ice and also participated in the pro competition circuit.

Yamaguchi made a fitness video with the California Raisins in 1993 called "Hip to be Fit: The California Raisins and Kristi Yamaguchi". She has appeared as herself on Everybody Loves Raymond and in D2: The Mighty Ducks, Frosted Pink, and the Disney Channel original movie Go Figure. Yamaguchi has also performed in numerous television skating specials, including the Disney special Aladdin on Ice, in which she played Princess Jasmine.

In 2006, Yamaguchi was the host of WE tv series Skating's Next Star, created and produced by Major League Figure Skating. Yamaguchi was a local commentator on figure skating for San Jose TV station KNTV (NBC 11) during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

On May 20, 2008, Yamaguchi became the champion of the sixth season of ABC's reality program Dancing with the Stars, in which she was paired with Mark Ballas, defeating finalist couple Jason Taylor and Edyta Śliwińska. Yamaguchi made a special appearance in the finale of the sixteenth season where she danced alongside Dorothy Hamill.

Kristi Yamaguchi at The Heart Truth 2009 (cropped)
Yamaguchi at The Heart Truth fashion show in 2009

In 2010, Yamaguchi worked as a daily NBC Olympics skating broadcast analyst on NBC's Universal Sports Network. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Kristi was also a special correspondent for the Today Show.

In early 2012, Yamaguchi created a woman's active wear line focused on function, comfort, and style to empower women to look good and feel good. The lifestyle brand is called Tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi. Tsu.ya donates a portion of its proceeds to support early childhood literacy through Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation.

In November 2017, Yamaguchi returned to Dancing With the Stars' 25th season in Week eight, to participate in a trio Jazz with Lindsey Stirling and her professional partner Mark Ballas.


Yamaguchi is the author of Always Dream, Pure Gold, and Figure Skating for Dummies. In 2011, she published an award-winning children's book, Dream Big, Little Pig, which was #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and received the Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award. A portion of the proceeds went to the Always Dream Foundation to support early childhood literacy programs. A sequel, It's a Big World Little Pig, was published March 6, 2012.


Yamaguchi received the Inspiration Award at the 2008 Asian Excellence Awards. Two 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, the Heisman Humanitarian Award, and the Great Sports Legends Award. She 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.

Philanthropic work

In 1996, Yamaguchi established the Always Dream Foundation for children. The goal of the foundation is to provide funding for after school programs, computers, back-to-school clothes for underprivileged children, and summer camps for kids with disabilities. Commenting in 2009, she explained her inspiration for the project: "I was inspired by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make a positive difference in children’s lives. We’ve been helping out various children’s organizations, which is rewarding. Our latest project is a playground designed so that kids of all abilities can play side by side. That’s our focus now."

Currently, her Always Dream Foundation is focused on early childhood literacy with a statement of "Empowering Children to reach their dreams through education and inspiration." The foundation has partnered with "Raising a Reader" to launch a reading program in schools throughout California and eventually nationwide. It is also providing a language arts program "Footsteps to Brilliance" to students in kindergarten and first grade. Both programs integrate innovative technology into the classrooms.

Personal life

On July 8, 2000, she married Bret Hedican, a professional hockey player she met at the 1992 Winter Olympics when he played for Team USA. After their wedding, Yamaguchi and Hedican resided in Raleigh, North Carolina where Hedican played for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team and won his only Stanley Cup in 2006. He also played for one year with the Anaheim Ducks. They now live in Alamo in northern California with their two daughters, Keara Kiyomi (born 2003) and Emma Yoshiko (born 2005). They also have a summer home on Gull Lake in northern Minnesota.

In 2012, Yamaguchi appeared in a campaign advertisement for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Competitive highlights

Kristi Yamaguchi’s Figure Skates, 1990’s
Yamaguchi's figure skates at the Museum of American History


Event 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90 1990–91 1991–92
Winter Olympics 1st
World Championships 6th 4th 1st 1st
Skate Canada 1st
Skate America 3rd 1st 2nd
Nations Cup 1st
International de Paris 2nd
NHK Trophy 2nd 2nd
Goodwill Games 1st
U.S. Olympic Festival 1st
International: Junior
World Junior Champ. 1st
U.S. Championships 2nd J. 10th 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st


Event 1992–93 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–00 2000–01 2001–02
Ice Wars 1st 1st 1st
The Gold Championships 1st 1st 1st
World Professional Figure Skating Championships 1st 2nd 1st 2nd 1st 1st 2nd


(with Rudy Galindo)

Event 1984–85 1985–86 1986–87 1987–88 1988–89 1989–90
World Champ. 5th 5th
Skate America 5th 2nd
NHK Trophy 3rd 4th
Skate Electric Challenge 1st
International: Junior
World Junior Champ. 5th 3rd 1st
U.S. Champ. 5th J. 1st J. 5th 5th 1st 1st
J. = Junior level


Year Title Role Notes
1994 You Must Remember This Herself / Madame X
1995 Aladdin on Ice Jasmine
1998 The Great Skate Debate II Skater
1994 D2: The Mighty Ducks Herself (Cameo)
1997 Everybody Loves Raymond Herself (Cameo) Episode: (Episode 19, The Dog)
2001 On Edge Regionals Judge #4
2003 Freedom: A History of Us Haruko Obata Episode: "Depression and War"
2005 Go Figure Herself (Cameo)
2012 Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice Herself - Host
2013 Hell's Kitchen Herself (Dining room guest) Episode: "17 Chefs Compete"
2018 Fresh Off the Boat Herself / First Lady Kristi Yamaguchi-Huang Episode: "King in the North"

Selected books

  • Yamaguchi, Kristi. Figure Skating for Dummies, Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1997. ISBN: 0-7645-5084-5
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi. Pure Gold, Harcourt School, 1997. ISBN: 978-0-15-307551-3
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi. Always Dream, Dallas: Taylor Pub. Co., 1998. ISBN: 0-87833-996-5
  • Yamaguchi, Kristi. Dream Big Little Pig, New York, NY: Scholastic Inc, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-545-44969-4
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